Joy seems to be a holiday must-have these days. Everywhere you look, from store shelves to store signage, joy is shouted or subliminally sold—with ornaments, stockings, bags, and a plethora of other items all spouting the sentiment. Yet if your holiday season is anything like mine, it’s safe to presume you aren’t always feeling as joyful as everything around you would suggest.
So how can we begin to create true joy in our hearts this season? Here are some suggestions to help you find—and spread—joy in the most ordinary and unexpected places!
Be a Blessing | Have each person who visits your home during the holidays add a tag—with a note or special ornament—to a wreath on your door, representing a specific way they’ve touched your life. When newcomers or other guests visit, your blessings will be visible for all to see.
Bushel List | Gather your family and create a list of must-dos for fall and winter. The list can be as grandiose as your imagination! In this way, you can pass down important family traditions to your children, as well as create new memories and shared family adventures. In recent years, our family has enjoyed the tradition of walking or riding through a living nativity, complete with actors and animals.
Chore Exchange | Get together with a group of friends and swap a chore—ideally one you’re not too fond of! Play on each individual’s strengths or favorites, though each person should only get one—fair is fair when it comes to friends! Set a time that works for everyone to complete the chores, preferably at the same time to add to the fun, and then come back together and share your experiences.
Deck the Road | Forget stringing lights—use sidewalk chalk to leave a holiday-themed message for everyone on your street to enjoy. “Love Never Fails,” “Joy to the World,” or “Love was born on Christmas” are a few festive favorites. You could always ask your neighbors to join in and make the festivities a friendly contest, with small prizes for the winners as an added incentive.
Feed the Five Thousand | Set a goal to donate to a food pantry or homeless shelter. Five thousand items may be too high, but remember there’s always strength in numbers. Alternatively, you could volunteer to make a meal at a food kitchen with your family or a group of neighbors and friends, and witness firsthand the joy on the attendees’ faces as they receive hot food, a place to get warm, and a welcoming smile.
Find the Fun | Raking leaves? Give yourself permission to jump in them or toss them like confetti. Wrapping gifts? Use the bows to make a wreath for the front door or an impromptu hair accessory. If the Thanksgiving shopping seems like a chore, turn it into a scavenger hunt, splitting the list between the participants. You can also find the fun in long drives by playing a game of car karaoke—where your passengers have to pick a holiday tune to sing!
Friendly Wrappers | Get together with your girlfriends or women’s circle to wrap gifts en masse—so long as there’s no peeking. This way you knock out a Christmas must-do with the added bonus of chatting, snacking, and listening to music with friends while you work!
God-Breathed | In those moments where you have to take a breather, whisper the word ‘joy’ as you exhale three to five times. The word itself may have become so familiar to you that it has lost all meaning. Taking the time to pause and reflect on what it truly means, may help you more readily rediscover and experience the joy the season and Christ have to offer.
Joy Makers | Gather your kids for a make-a-thon! Use the opportunity to bond while creating homemade crafts or goodies to give away as gifts for family, friends, or neighbors. Similarly, you could bless the homeless or local nursing homes by putting together care kits that include socks, lotion, toothpaste, crackers, and other small items.
Movie Mission | Coordinate a cinematic event for your church at a local movie theater, event center, or library. Alternatively, gather together with like-minded friends to sponsor a free movie suitable for the season. Our family favorites include “The Nativity Story” (2006) and “The Star” (2017).
Samaritan Thoughts | Leaving a little token for someone is also a way to spread joy. Use monogrammed stockings or ornaments to spell out J-O-Y (or another inspiring word), for busy shoppers to notice in the store. Consider leaving an encouraging note and a dollar or two inside products for new parents, for example, boxes of diapers ($2 for Size 2; $3 for 3, etc.) or under the plastic cap of canned formula.
Sing Over Them | Gather church family in a popular spot to sing carols or stage a flash mob. It’s a wonderful way to spread cheer and encourage others to know more about Jesus—the true reason for the season!
Shop Hop | Offer to help an elderly or vulnerable neighbor or friend with their Christmas shopping. You can play chauffeur for the day, or pick up their wish list while out running errands. Consider offering them a plate at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or better yet, invite them over to eat with your family.
Whether you choose to use these ideas or create your own special ways to spread joy to your family, friends, church, and community, remember moments are more memorable than things. If you gift, give from the heart, and pick something that sparks true joy for you and the receiver. God’s gifts to us are many, but the gift of His Son is incomparable. Remember His joy and goodness as you love your way through the holiday season.