You can't move in the blogosphere for Christmas Gift Guides this year. Whilst I appreciate the help; I have been buying presents for some of my friends for over 20 years and you start to lose inspiration. However, so much of it is repetitive - I don't need to see any more jumpers, bath stuff or candles. There's also a fundamental part of Christmas giving missing from all of these 'gift guides'; ways to give to people that you don't actually know. You don't have to be religious to want to give a little at Christmas - the relentless consumerism definitely makes me want to give a little back; I get so many presents, all of which are lovely but none of which I need. This isn't just a rant about Christmas - I love Christmas, and I don't have a problem buying presents for everyone and anyone, but it definitely tugs at my heart strings when I think of what that money could go towards.
My favourite way of giving at Christmas is the Refuge Christmas Wish List. Every year, domestic violence charity Refuge sets up a gift list with John Lewis and you can go there and buy presents for the women and children who are spending Christmas in refuges. This is a cause very close to my heart, and it's quite a 'fun' way of giving, if you can think of it that way, because you get to pick the present you want to give. Or, if you can't pick, or if all the cheap gifts are already gone, you can just give a £5 John Lewis voucher. Lovely. Just go to the John Lewis Gift page and look up list '522953'.
The trend for ethical giving has only increased in the last few years; and whilst there's a lot of cynicism surrounding this kind of giving, there are plenty of options if you're interested. Why not try out Oxfam Unwrapped to buy a chicken for your friends instead of the aforementioned candle, or a Lend With Care microfinance loan to help an entrepreneur in a developing country? Alternatively, if you like your giving to be a bit closer to home, why not donate to a project using a service like Kickstarter? It's not directly Christmas giving, but you can also support independent businesses by using Etsy for your Christmas shopping, which can help you feel a little bit better about the piles of presents!
Of course, they always say that the best gift you can give to charity is your time. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities at Christmas, and you can find some in your area by searching online at Do-It.org.uk. Or just by asking around! A cause that has touched my heart this year is the increased demand on food banks. As more and more people become victims of austerity and the recession, there has been an increased demand on food banks. And whilst the thought of someone having nothing to eat every day is heart-breaking, the poignancy of Christmas makes the thought so much worse. Food banks not only need donations (why not set up a food drive at your work, more is always more in these situations!) but also volunteering to sort and distribute. Check out The Trussell Trust or FareShare to find a local food bank.
Are you doing any charitable giving or volunteering this year? Let me know - I'm always looking for new things!