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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 15 December, 2019

'Packing the hampers is part of our Christmas routine': 6 people share small ways to be charitable this winter

From charity runs to carolling for a cause, here are a few ways you can give back.

Image: DPA/PA Images

AS WINTER IS knocking on the door, we’re digging out the scarves and turning on the heat, getting to grips with the shorter days and chilly temps. 

With cooler temperatures come preparations for the season – from scheduling festive drinks with friends to putting the work Christmas party on the calendar. Your preparations will likely include finding ways to connect with family and friends, and creating new traditions together is a wonderful way to do that.

It can be tricky to know how to start a tradition for yourself or your family if it hasn’t been part of your routine in the past, but finding a small way to give back while spending time with loved ones can be an easy addition to an already hectic season. 

If you’re looking for new tradition to incorporate this winter, we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up a host of inspiration from real people whose Christmas traditions now include a favourite charity activity to do together – and whose festivities wouldn’t be complete without carolling for the Simon Community or packing hampers for St. Vincent de Paul. 

1. Lend your voice to a carolling event: My best friend is a teacher and she’s involved with her local youth groups. A few of us always try to lend our voices to their annual charity drive by carolling for one of those groups. It’s always really lovely raising spirits in my old hometown while people do their Christmas shopping, and knowing that hopefully it will provide someone with a bed for the night. Plus, it’s an excuse to meet up and eat mince pies and drink mulled wine together by the fire after in my friend’s house.

- Hannah

2. Get festive with a charity tree lighting: I go to the lighting of the Christmas tree at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross with my family every year. We get mince pies and tea in the canteen beforehand and the sense of togetherness is so strong and heartwarming. Then we head outside, buy a candle and get a cup of soup from the Defense Forces, who are always there. A celebrity of some sort is usually there to sing Christmas carols – once it was Daniel O’Donnell, which loads of people loved! Towards the end, we say a prayer for all of our loved ones who have passed, and it’s always really emotional but lovely. It’s such a big part of our Christmas routine – I wouldn’t be without it.

- Amy 

3. Jump into the sea for a polar bear dip: For the last twelve years, a group of my friends from school all jump into the sea on Christmas Day. We used to jump in at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, but one year we realised we are all Northsiders and could just jump in at Bull Wall. So that’s where we’ve done it the last few years.

What I love most about doing this is the tradition of it. There’s not many times  throughout the year we as a group all come together and this is one reliable annual activity we would all still do. Beyond our immediate group, there’s also always a lovely warmth down there in general – in terms of the people not the water! — as well as a bunch of folk with collection boxes for charity, which adds to the community spirit.  Really, the whole experience (from the dread before to the invigoration after) is as much as part of my December 25th as now as the Christmas turkey!

- John

4. Sign up for a charity fun run: I do a charity mile run with my Dad every Christmas morning at CIT in Cork. You just run a few laps of the track and put money in the collection box, it’s very sweet! There are always loads of families in Santa hats and everyone’s passing around tins of Roses. Also, they don’t have a digital timer to tell you what your time was for running the mile, they just have a man who stands at the finish line shouting “five minutes and five seconds… five minutes and ten seconds…” like a human clock. That’s the best bit.

- Paula

5. Or train for a race for a good cause: I’m a fan of doing the Mark Pollock Trust Run in the Dark every year.

Mark is one guy who has had terrible things happen to him, but has found a way of converting this into blazing a trail for others in his community – raising funds for research and development to paralysis research. It might not ultimately help him – but it may have a huge impact on generations of people living with paralysis in the future.

I run in the Dublin one, it’s a gorgeous event. The quays alight with the red flashing armbands of participants; it’s like we are charging forward through the dark with Mark’s mission lighting the way.

- Susan

run-in-the-dark-races Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

6. Help pack Christmas hampers for those in need: Collecting/packing/delivering St Vincent De Paul hampers is my Christmas thing. It’s a charity tradition I inherited from my mother, who was the president of the Greystones Vincent de Paul for years, so our childhood run-up to Christmas was always about the hampers – which I resented strongly at the time, I’m ashamed to say!

We now have a rota for collecting for the hampers in the weeks running up to Christmas, so we cover slots and even my kids are involved in a couple of slots (once they reach 14 or so). All the stuff is collected in the local Scouts den and we pack and address the hampers from there. The kids enjoy this part the most, there’s always a lovely atmosphere in the hall while the packing is going on. Hamper packing is as much a Christmas tradition now as all our other family Christmas traditions.

- Sinead

What’s your favourite way to be charitable this winter? An Post is looking to find out more about Ireland’s charitable habits. Complete the survey here and be in with a chance of winning one of five €50 One4All Gift Cards. 

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