Putting com­mu­nity back into Christ­mas

The fes­tive sea­son can be about more than just fam­ily, presents and food.

The Tribune (NZ) - - BACKYARD BANTER -

The streets and shops are di­a­bol­i­cal and full of peo­ple and traf­fic.

Mean­while your in-tray is fill­ing up faster than you can empty it be­fore work wraps up for the year and the kids keep re­mind­ing you about Santa’s pend­ing visit – not for­get­ting the sack load of ex­pen­sive presents they hope he’ll be bring­ing.

Christ­mas can be one of the most fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally stress­ful times of the year but it can also be one of the most re­ward­ing.

It doesn’t have to just fo­cus on fam­ily, presents and too much food. It can also be a great time of year to think about the peo­ple around you, es­pe­cially those who are less for­tu­nate or alone with no-one to share their day with.

Stuck for Christ­mas ideas out­side of the norm? Here are a few we’ve come up with.

Use Neigh­bourly.co.nz to or­gan­ise a Christ­mas lights com­pe­ti­tion or to share de­tails of which houses have the best dis­plays in your neigh­bour­hood.

Set up a fam­ily Christ­mas event for your street com­plete with a potluck Christ­mas meal, fam­ily games, a visit from Santa and gifts for each child. Maybe set up a pic­nic in your lo­cal park.

Spread the word and make sure your neigh­bours all pitch in and help with the set-up and pack­down.

Or­gan­ise a char­ity drive to give back to your com­mu­nity. Think about do­nat­ing cans of food and Christ­mas gro­cery treats like candy canes and mince pies to the Sal­va­tion Army or a sim­i­lar or­gan­i­sa­tion; wrap­ping presents to give to Women’s Refuge, or do­nat­ing your time at a lo­cal soup kitchen or home­less shel­ter. Get your whole neigh­bour­hood in­volved.

Of­fer to look af­ter your neigh­bours’ kids so the adults can head to their Christ­mas work func­tions or com­plete their last­minute shop­ping with­out hav­ing their chil­dren un­der­foot.

Dress up as Santa and drop anony­mous gifts off at your neigh­bours’ doors or in their let­ter­boxes. Don’t forget the Santa sack, a re­silient smile and a lot of Ho Ho Hos.

En­cour­age your kids to write Christ­mas cards to all of your neigh­bours.

Know a house­hold that’s new to your neigh­bour­hood, or some­one down the road who doesn’t have any fam­ily? In­vite them over for a Christ­mas lunch or din­ner.

Host a DIY work­shop dur­ing the school hol­i­days, and send the kids home with home­made Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions to pop on their trees and gifts to give to their fam­i­lies and friends.

Set up a communal Christ­mas tree at the en­trance to your street, com­plete with so­lar fairy lights and dec­o­ra­tions do­nated by the whole neigh­bour­hood. Nom­i­nate a fam­ily to take the dec­o­ra­tions down once the fes­tive sea­son is over and store them un­til next year (un­less you don’t mind them all glow­ing in June). Hand the torch over to an­other fam­ily next year.

Of­fer to help out with a Christ­mas pro­duc­tion or carol ser­vice at your lo­cal church or school.

Ask for gift con­tri­bu­tions from busi­nesses in your neigh­bour­hood, then or­gan­ise a ‘‘12 Days of Christ­mas’’ event where ev­ery house­hold on your street has the chance to win a great prize.

Ever thought about or­gan­is­ing a Christ­mas street party – com­plete with Santa?

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