This is one of my favorite times of the year—not because the weather is especially nice (I’m not fond of the cold), but because it is a season of giving. Everyone seems to be a little more generous and charitable around Christmas.

Although the spirit of giving can abound this time of year, the spirit of “me-ism” can quickly sneak in if we’re not careful. As much as we want our children to get excited about all of the festivities of the holidays, we also want to teach them to focus their hearts and minds outward on others—just as Jesus Himself did.

Below you will find 20 relatively simple ways your family can serve together this holiday season. Many of these activities require little to no money. Try one, two, or even all of them (if you’re really ambitious).

1. Deliver cookies to the employees at a fire station, police station, or hospital on Christmas Day.

2. Choose a child’s name off of a giving tree and pick out the gift together as a family.

3. Pool together some money to buy a tank of gas for a friend or relative who can’t afford to go home for Christmas.

4. Recruit several families and adopt a nursing home. Buy a simple gift for each resident (lotion, slippers, holiday throw blankets, etc) and arrange a time to deliver the gifts.

5. Send Christmas cards to military personnel overseas.

6. Prepare a meal together as a family and take it to a sick or elderly friend. You can use this free “From Our Kitchen to Yours” printable for baking/reheating instructions.

7. Deliver a baked good to your neighbors.

8. Leave a Christmas card (and perhaps a little treat) in your mailbox for the mail carrier.

9. Go caroling at a nursing home.

10. Volunteer to read a Christmas book aloud to your child’s class … or contact your local bookstore to see if you can schedule a time to read aloud to their children’s section. If possible, choose a book about the real meaning of Christmas.

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11. Ring bells for the Salvation Army.

12. Host a Christmas dinner for the widows and widowers at your church.

13. Host a packing party for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry through Samaritan’s Purse that sends a shoebox of gifts/personal items to a child in a Third World country for Christmas—which is often the only gift the child will receive.

14. Take balloons or small gifts to the children’s ward of your local hospital. You probably won’t be able to deliver them to the children themselves due to privacy policies, but you can ask the nurses to deliver them or ask permission of the parents who happen to be present at the time.

15. Choose a day to serve each other inside your own home. Take out the trash for your husband, encourage your children to pick up their sibling’s toys, and show appreciation for one another.

16. Encourage every member of your family to look each person they come across that day in the eye, smile, and express their appreciation with a simple “thank you” or a compliment.

17. Go to the grocery store together as a family and pick up a few items for your local food pantry. Many stores have drop-off locations within the store itself during the Thanksgiving/Christmas seasons.

18. Volunteer to babysit, as a family, for a couple with small children so that they can go out on a date.

19. Clean out your coat closet and take your old coats to a local shelter.

20. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Have each person in your house go through their books and choose a few to donate to your local library (or elsewhere).

Copyright © 2012 by Janae Jacobson. All rights reserved. Used by permission.