It sounds like a massive cliché, but as you get older, Christmas changes a lot. No longer are you wetting yourself with excitement on Christmas Eve to find how many presents your parents have stashed away for you, and the annual ritual of throwing a screaming tantrum when your mum and dad don’t buy the right batteries for something are firmly left in the past.
Instead, you start to appreciate the simple pleasures of relaxation away from work and spending quality time with the family (that is, if you haven’t murdered each other after an angry game of Monopoly). And it’s also a time when you think about donating to charity or giving back in some small way.
To make things easier for you this year, we’ve rounded up some easy ways that you can give back this festive season. So go forth and spread that Christmas cheer.
1. Join the #BestManProject
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. This December, they’ve kicked off a new scheme called the #BestManProject that aims to help men learn to open up about themselves and their feelings, especially if they’re struggling with their mental health. All you have to do is sign up here, and you’ll receive all sorts of tips and tricks on being a great best mate, direct to your inbox.
2. Be a lifeline this winter for homeless LGBT+ teens by helping to provide mobile phones
Many homeless LGBT+ young people have experienced terrible abuse and rejection – some have even escaped violent households. For some, this will be their first winter on their own. The Albert Kenney Trust has launched a winter appeal to help keep these vulnerable teens connected and safe by providing mobile phones. A donation of just £9.99 can pay for a basic mobile with credit, which can be the difference between staying connected with friends and services at the charity, and feeling isolated and unsafe.
3. Gift a goat, manure, or educate a child with Oxfam Unwrapped
This charity gift scheme from Oxfam is perfect for your friends and family who don’t want or need anything in particular for Christmas. And even better, you’ll be helping out people around the world by providing them with essentials like livestock, manure, safe drinking water and education.
4. Make a New Year’s resolution to do something exciting for charity
Sick of the same old stuffy New Year’s resolutions to stop eating chocolate, lose weight and get a gym membership? This year shake things up by signing up for an exciting fundraising challenge. Fancy climbing a skyscraper? Shelter’s Vertical Rush - the ‘UK’s original tower-running challenge’ - is celebrating 10 years at the iconic Tower 42 in March.
5. Get some adorable Christmas doggo merch to support guide dogs’ services
Only cold-hearted monsters don’t like dogs (expect for cats, obviously, they’re mortal enemies), so when you’re finishing off your Christmas shopping this year have a look at the fantastic merch being sold by Guide Dogs UK. You can get pup-themed Christmas crackers, paw print bath bombs and chew toys for that favourite pooch in your life.
6. Have a party (and raise money for charity!)
While Christmas is traditionally a time of year to enjoy the odd tipple or two, for people struggling with addiction the festive period is a minefield of temptation – from alcoholic gifts to boozy office parties. That’s why the good people at Addaction (firstname.lastname@example.org) have come up with a way for us to give back while still having a good time. If you contact the charity, they can provide bunting, balloons and T-shirts for a festive coffee morning, afternoon tea or pub quiz. And they have fundraising packs full of ideas and tips on how to get started.
7. Volunteer for a few hours at a food bank
In the past five years, food bank demand from children over Christmas has tripled, according to the Trussell Trust - a charity that has a network of more than 430 food banks. This year, you can donate supplies, funds or your time by working as a warehouse volunteer or in a foodbank centre. Click here to find a location near you.
8. Inspired by Blue Planet? Go plastic free
The entire nation has been swept up in the incredible David Attenborough documentary series Blue Planet II this year. And if you’re desperate to do something to help the sea life that’s dangerously under threat from us humans, you can sign up for the Marine Conservation Society’s plastic-free living starter kit. From just £5 per month, you’ll get a range of goodies and advice about how to reduce waste and help the environment.
9. Buy a Christmas sandwich
The Shelter helpline is funded by M&S customers throughout the festive season. Feeling peckish? Looking for a festive treat? With 5% of every purchase from the M&S ‘Festive Collection for Shelter’ going directly to the charity, something as simple as buying a sandwich could make the world of difference to a family whose home is on the line this Christmas.
10. Donate toys to kids at Great Ormond Street
The kids at Great Ormond Street are always looking for new toys. In particular, kids at the hospital love board games, computer games or arts and crafts. Click here for details or here to make a donation.
11. Buy Christmas cards and fund research to end childhood diabetes
Approximately 400,000 people are currently living with type 1 diabetes in the UK, with more than 29,000 of them children. You can help fund important research by buying Christmas cards from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
12. Help make sure care leavers aren’t alone at Christmas
Christmas can be a hard time for young people coming out of care. So to make sure they’re not alone during the festive season, writer Lemn Sissay has helped to set up a number of free Christmas dinners all around the country. Find out how to donate or get involved here.
13. Mentor disadvantaged children
The Rugby Portobello Trust has been one of the charities helping victims and families affected by the tragic Grenfell Tower fire. If you think you can commit a larger amount of your time, click here to find out how to volunteer as a mentor for disadvantaged children.
(Images: iStock / Guide Dogs / Oxfam / Trussell Trust)