Christmas is my favourite time of the entire year. The world turns into a magical place filled with lights, incredible scents and a wondrous feeling of peace. Love, joy and happiness lingers in the air and even though it sounds cliché, one can really see how people change during Christmas season. Even though commerce and capitalism have cast a shadow on this peaceful season during the last decades, the most important thing about Christmas has fortunately not been forgotten. 
Most of the year, people find themselves trapped in hectic routines, dealing with challenges, sorrows and pain but somehow all of this gets pushed aside for a tiny little while, while people simply enjoy each other’s company, spend time with their loved ones and let joy take over their stressful lives for once. 
Many of us have the luxury to really be able to enjoy the festive season to the fullest and are surrounded by the ones closest to our hearts but it shouldn’t be forgotten that a large group of people can’t celebrate Christmas the way they’d wish to. And as Christmas is the time of giving and sharing, I think it’s important that we who are privileged enough to spend this season the way we imagine, share a spark of our joy and happiness in order to make others happy – even if it’s only for a short moment.
Four Tiny Ways to Make a Stranger Happy. 
Pay for someone’s coffee. 
As a coffee lover I enjoy spending my spare time meeting friends at coffee shops to catch up and spend some quality time. Next time you grab your favourite hot drink at your local coffeeshop, ask the barista what the customer after your ordered and tell them you want to pay their order as well. Believe me, they will be delighted hearing, that they got a coffee for free and it will make you feel amazing, knowing you have done a good deed. It’s such a simple and affordable gesture that can make another person’s day. 
Leave your valid bus ticket at the ticket machine.
As I usually use my bike to get around, I barely ever use public transport. Whenever I do, I have to take a ticket that’s valid for an hour. As I barely ever max out the time the ticket is valid, I always leave it at the ticket machine in order for someone else to find it and use it without having to pay. That way, someone gets a ride for free and is certainly happy about it and the ticket gets used to its maximum. 
Hold the door open for someone.
This might seem like such a natural and obvious gesture but I have witnessed people smashing the door into other people’s faces so often that I feel like it deserves to be mentioned in my list as well. Holding the door open for someone sometimes really has a more positive effect on the other person than one might actually expect. Especially elderly people generally think that the youth was raised without manners, so such a simple gestures might not only prove them wrong but also put a smile on their face.
Same thing counts for holding the door of the bus open for someone running towards the bus station. I always feel eternally grateful when someone does that for me. Be kind and make someone still catch their bus. 
Help a mother with her pram.
Let’s be real, mothers are real superheroes. They manage to juggle their daily routine, a household, a job and their children in ways most of us young adults can’t even comprehend. Especially during Christmas time their stress levels are on an all time high due to Christmas shopping, busy streets and crowded spaces. Carrying a pram down annoying shopping centre stair cases while still holding grip of shopping bags and possibly another child is a challenge by itself. To make that mother’s day, you just have to ask if you can help her carry the pram up or down the stairs and I promise, it’ll make their day as such a tiny gesture helps them so much. Same goes for public transport once again, as getting a pram into a bus is often quite difficult as well.
Extra note to all my readers from GRAZ:
Right next to Flann O’Brien’s Pub is a lovely, small Christmas market with the most amazing Secret Santa idea I have ever seen. One can grab a note from one of the market stands and write a small wish and their name and address on it and can hang it on the market’s Christmas tree. Someone else can then grab the note with the wish if they want to and make a stranger happy in the process. I really recommend participating as it is such an amazing way of spreading the Christmas spirit and making a stranger happy. 
Ways to Help People Less Fortunate Than Most of Us
Donate food to animal shelters.
Especially during and after Christmas animal shelters are packed with animals who were supposed to be presents but were returned because people realised the responsibility and amount of time and attention a pet needs, is too much for them. Not only do animal shelters run out of space, they also run low on food for the animals a lot of the time. By donating dog and cat food you can help those shelters to feed the animals. 
SIDE NOTE: DON’T GIFT ANIMALS FOR CHRISTMAS. GETTING A PET SHOULD BE A MUTUAL FAMILY DECISION AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE AWARE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY HAVING A PET COMES WITH. SIDE NOT OVER.
Donate toys to child care centres and children’s hospitals.
Many children have to spend their Christmas away from home or are separated from their families, which is sad and devastating. Many of us still have old toys which are in perfect condition stored in boxes in the attic or the basement. Instead of those items continuing to collect dust on some shelf, pack up the toys that still work and drop them of at a child care centre or a hospital. Inform yourself beforehand if your chosen institution is allowed to accept your donations though so you won’t be disappointed if you’re rejected. 
By donating toys you can clear out space in your storage and make small children happy on Christmas.
Donate food to those who can’t afford a meal. 
At our supermarkets you can often find boxes right after the checkout where you can drop food such as bread, pasta and other longer lasting items in. Those items are then given to poor families who can’t afford meals or sold at so called “social markets” where food can be purchased for a smaller price. 
Support a charity of your choice.
Even though I believe we should spread love and kindness all year round I think that Christmas is the perfect time to support a charity that stands for a cause close to one’s heart. 
Credit: Joanna Kosinska
I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season and hope all your dreams come true. Be loving and treat people with kindness. 
Yours, Simone xx

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