12 ways to make this Christmas season a little kinder

He might have “forgotten” to give you that Teddy Ruxpin in 1988, but don’t let anyone tell you Santa hasn’t taught you anything meaningful. This year, make your own list and check it twice; by performing small acts of kindness in the lead-up to Christmas you could make all the difference in someone’s life. Poised to write a letter insisting the 12 days begins on December 25? We’re continuing with the topsy-turvy nature of 2020 and starting early.


On the first day of Christmas… purchase a sustainably sourced tree
To buy a real pine tree or shell out for an artificial one you can use year after year? The latter might seem like the greener choice, but this isn’t necessarily true. Montreal-based consulting firm Ellipsos found that an artificial tree – often made from environmentally damaging petroleum chemicals – would need to be reused for 20 years to be considered to have a lower impact. Purchase a potted Australian pine such as a historic Wollemi from the likes of NSW’s Wollemi Pine store or a potted Christmas Star pine from Victoria’s Blerick Tree Farm instead, and consider adopting a tree with WWF-Australia’s Adopt A Tree campaign.

On the second day of Christmas… send customised greeting cards
It’s a rare person who doesn’t love to hear the thud of something other than bills and brochures in their letterbox. During the festive season, receiving a card is considered even more exciting, with half of adults polled in an English Oxfam study saying they would be devastated to receive a Yuletide greeting via social media instead of a heartfelt card. Buy your Christmas cards from a charitable organisation (Charity Greeting Cards lets you choose both the card design and the charity to support) and send loved ones meaningful messages. This is, to say the least, not the year to “Kind regards” anyone.

On the third day of Christmas… buy gifts that give back to communities in need
Department store hauls will always have their place, but you can make a difference in the lives of others this year by purchasing presents from businesses and services doing it tough. It could be buying vouchers from struggling local businesses such as bookstores, restaurants or salons, or, if you’re in the mood for a one-stop shop, by visiting an online marketplace such as Spend With Us or Buy from the Bush. Both platforms support mum-and-dad businesses in remote and regional areas and have a wealth of gift ideas for every age group.

On the fourth day of Christmas… bake cakes of gratitude
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that superheroes don’t always wear capes. From firies to front-line workers, there are countless community members who deserve our thanks. Express your gratitude the best way possible: by baking and delivering those brownies you’ve spent all year perfecting. If you’re unsure of how a home-made cake will be received at a time like this, another option is to keep them in coffee. You can “Pay it Forward” by buying coffees for healthcare workers via @buythemacoffee on Instagram, or by ordering online through cafes such as Cohab Coffee in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

On the fifth day of Christmas… volunteer your time
Roll up your sleeves and assist a charity during its busiest time of the year. Volunteer opportunities are available with The Smith Family in its Christmas warehouse at Sydney Olympic Park from November 25 to December 21, with various roles geared around providing toy and book packs to more than 9000 children living in disadvantage. In Melbourne, the Salvation Army is looking for Christmas drivers and drivers’ assistants, while other opportunities are regularly posted at GoVolunteer and Seek Volunteer.

On the sixth day of Christmas… make a donation
As donations to not-for-profits continue to fall (thank COVID-19), charities are feeling the strain at a time when they’re needed more than ever. If you’re in a position to give – no matter how little – consider making a donation to one that’s close to your heart. A donation of $120 to UNHCR Australia provides emergency nutrition sachets to children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, while cash donations to Barnados Australia’s Gift Appeal will go towards buying gifts for disadvantaged kids.

On the seventh day of Christmas… invite a Christmas orphan for lunch
Pre-pandemic, a quarter of Australians identified as lonely, according to a 2018 study by the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University. As uncertainty over border closures and restrictions continue to wreak havoc with our plans, it’s a figure that is expected to be much higher this year. Add another chair to your table and extend an invitation to a “Christmas orphan”. Put a callout on your local Facebook community group, knock on a neighbour’s door or sign up to host a recent arrival to our country through a service such as The Welcome Dinner Project.

On the eighth day of Christmas… purchase a couple of extra presents
Put a smile on a few extra faces this Christmas morning by donating new toys to families doing it tough. Bear Cottage, a Sydney hospice for children who are terminally ill or have a life-limiting illness, accepts donations for patients and siblings. On the wish list are gift vouchers, tickets to Sydney attractions and movies, plus Lego kits and craft supplies (among others). This isn’t a place where children come to die, explains a sibling of a patient, but a place for them to live as much as they can. To give, email SCHN-BearCottage@health.nsw.gov.au.

On the ninth day of Christmas… organise a pet shelter drive
The number of unwanted pets spikes after the festive season. While you can’t adopt all of them, you can help shelters prepare by organising a pet-food drive at your child’s school, your workplace or a community group and donating it to a shelter near you. The RSPCA in NSW and Victoria has a COVID-safe “shelter wish list” you can view online, calling for enrichment toys, towels, bedding and blankets (new and used) and treats at the top of the list. Items such as scratching posts, toys and kitty trays should be new and pet food unopened.

On the tenth day of Christmas… shop for a kind meal
Eating the contents of Noah’s Ark on Christmas Day might be a time-honoured tradition, but if David Attenborough is asking us to go vegetarian or cut back on meat to help save our planet, it’s time to listen. A great way to start is to choose sustainable, ethically sourced produce where possible. The Sustainable Table website has plenty of great tips on what to look for in meat and seafood.

On the eleventh day of Christmas… book a getaway with thought
Thinking about heading to Byron after Boxing Day? You and everyone else. Instead, consider a staycation or book a stay somewhere doing it tough such as Cairns in Queensland, Mallacoota in Victoria and in the NSW Murray or Riverina regions. The more reliant on international tourism pre-COVID, the more likely it needs your support. If you’re driving, arrive with an empty tank and esky and spend big!

On the twelfth day of Christmas… perform a random act of kindness
Opportunities, great or small, are all around. It could be donating flowers to your hospital for a patient who could do with a little love. Paying for someone’s lunch or coffee. Making sandwiches for rough sleepers or putting out water for passing dogs and cats. The act isn’t important, only the will to create a situation that encourages someone to believe in magic – just for a moment.

This article first appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald

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