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The Gift of Giving Back - How to Make the Holidays Special when You Cannot be with Family

by Alex

The winter holiday season is not only a time to get together with family and friends, it’s a time to reflect on what we are and can be thankful for as the year steadily comes to a close. Beginning with Thanksgiving (both Canadian and American), the holiday season is usually spent with family, friends, and those who’ve made meaningful contributions to our lives. Holidays can be lonely when it is not possible to spend them gathering with family and friends. If you will not be able to join family this holiday season and are looking for ways to make it fulfilling and meaningful, venture outside tradition and do something new. Here are a few ways you and your family can have a more meaningful answer to the question “Did you do anything special over the holidays?”

Give the Gift of Time

Most people don’t really think about volunteering as a way to spend the Christmas holidays because it’s usually a time to be with family and friends. Devoting time during the holidays to causes that are close to your heart is a fulfilling gift that pays compound dividends for the people you’ve helped and yourself. It’s also a great way to instill values in your children and let them experience for themselves the joy and satisfaction that giving brings. It’s fun, meaningful, and can open up space to talk about social issues that may not often come up in conversation. Across Canada, there are a variety of local organisations serving vulnerable populations and frontline workers that are always looking for extra pairs of hands. This is especially true during the holidays since they’re usually short staffed. Some organisations might allow you to cook at home and donate the food. Another option could be doing a food drive in your community or neighbourhood or by cooking and delivering home-cooked meals to the elderly, international students or single parent households.


Give the gift of time


Alternatively, if you prefer doing something hands-off, you could volunteer over the phone doing check-ins on elderly or the sick. Keep in mind that this type of volunteering might require training and a longer time commitment.

Spread Some Cheer through the Post

Nothing brightens your day like getting a personal letter. Get younger children involved (and practice their penmanship) by having them write and send Christmas cards to friends and family. If your children enjoy this activity and you’d like to explore other letter writing options, have them write letters of holiday well wishes and thanks to first responders and Canadian Armed Forces personnel serving.


write and send Christmas cards to friends and family


Christmas cards can also be the beginning of long and fulfilling pen pal relationships. Many senior facilities have programs pairing letter writers with residents. These programs foster intergenerational relationships cherished by children and seniors alike and give both pen pals something to look forward to long after Christmas has come and gone.


Convene with Nature; Cultivate Gratitude

One of the simplest ways to cultivate Christmas cheer as a family is to disconnect from devices and get outside to enjoy what you already have around you! Fun activities like getting lost in a corn maze, finding a frozen pond to skate, or building a family ice fort will inspire rosy cheeks and laughter that will feed your soul and stay with you longer than any Christmas present or holiday turkey dinner will.


Convene with nature


Can’t disconnect your kids from devices? Stage a photoshoot and have your children take the pictures. You will be surprised by their perspective and come away with some special photos to share with the friends and family who couldn’t join you this Christmas.

Buy Local

If you don’t have the time or interest to volunteer and letter writing isn’t your thing but you still want to make your holiday more meaningful, shopping local with independent retailers is a vitally important way of benefitting your community. Buy your holiday groceries from local food producers and farmer’s markets or treat yourself by ordering a meal from a family-run restaurant. The added benefit for you: splurge on that new restaurant you’ve been dying to try but couldn’t justify; everyone can choose their own dish - meaning fewer or no dishes and more time to actually spend with family. Search for locally owned and operated catering companies nearby. You could even make it a new Thanksgiving or Christmas tradition to carry forward unto other holidays.

Shop Local


When you’re hunting for those special holiday gifts, locally owned and operated boutiques will have uniquely curated merchandise you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. No matter what you’re looking for or what your budget, the owners and employees of independent businesses will go above and beyond helping you find something sure to delight. If you are taking advantage of a less hectic schedule this holiday season to update your kitchen or re-do the décor in your home, your local BrandSource retailer will help you find the perfect pieces for your home, lifestyle, and budget. Each owner-operated BrandSource store is staffed by furniture, mattress, and appliance experts who are also your friends and neighbours.


While there are many things you can do for yourself to foster gratitude, why not make it a new Canadian holiday tradition to show kindness and appreciation to others?