Spread the Christmas cheer with kind gifts

WE PUT the Christmas tree up a little late this year. So much going on, and we wanted to do it properly.

So last Friday night, before the wee one went to bed, we played carols, poured ourselves a gin and tonic and set about adorning the tree with tinsel, baubles and lights.

When it was done, the tree laden with festive colour, we switched on the lights and stepped back to admire the result.

Meanwhile, Master Nearly-Two stepped forward and tried to blow out all those twinkling little lights that so resembled candles! And we laughed till our sides hurt.

I love the spirit of Christmas, those moments of love, joy and peace. They are achievable, believe it or not, when we allow ourselves time to soak in the reason behind our traditions.

In one of the recent Feast magazines, Hobart foodie Matthew Evans said: "All of us need a wake- up call to get back in touch; to give for giving's sake; to invite and be invited; to host and be hosted. To feed and be fed."

To give and receive in the spirit of Christmas: with unshakable joy.

It's a tough one when there is so much pressure to spend big and impress with the latest and greatest. Then we get stressed when we can't find the right gift and the December 25 deadline is looming.

See, I thought this would be the case. What on earth are you going to buy for those people on your list who already have it all?

Take a chill pill and tune in to Claire's Gift Guide, five ideas for those who defy your shopping expertise:

1. A mosquito net. Children in places like Mozambique die when they do not have mosquito netting and the pesky insect injects them with a death dose of malaria. World Vision Australia accepts donations to right this inconceivable wrong, and at Christmas they do it in the name of your friend or family member. Love it.

2. A chicken ($16), a goat ($45) or a pig ($80). Compassion has a gift catalogue of weird and wonderful things that give twice: once to your mate and once to a child in need. The items are life-changers, giving these poor people anything from sustenance or a livelihood to life itself.

3. OK, OK. So your gift recipient isn't into all that goodwill stuff and you want to get them something that they will enjoy personally. Why don't you buy them tickets to one of the charity balls? They're a load of fun! A Night of Compassion features the ABBA show Bjorn Again, March 16 at $180 a ticket.

4. Shop at places like Oxfam. For every dollar you spend, put another into a good cause. Put a gift under the ABC Giving Tree. Check out eBay's GiveOne initiative: you grab a tag off the virtual tree on the website and choose a gift in your price range, and then eBay gives it to a child in an Australian hospital on your behalf. Sorry, got a bit carried away there.

5. Finally, at the very least, shop locally. Our retailers are doing it tough and it isn't helped by people doing their shopping online.

It's easy to be generous to our loved ones, but Christmas should remind us of need beyond our little worlds.

"Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed," we read in Proverbs 19:17.

Anyway, when you give a present like those above, it doesn't matter so much if they don't like it. You know that someone will benefit.

To read more of Claire's musings, visit faithlikeamushroom.wordpress.com.

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