What Can I Give?

"What can we give _____ this Christmas?"  This question is usually answered by a list of possibilities from a store, which makes retailers happy but might not be useful or desired by the recipient.

Why don't we think outside of the (gift) box to provide more value and meaning to everyone?

snowy village sunrise

Give your heart.

One of my favorite Christmas carols has a lovely, simple melody by English composer Gustav Holst, and profound, yet earthy lyrics by English poet Christina Rossetti.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter, a stable-place sufficed
The Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim worship night and day,
A breastful of milk and a mangerful of hay.
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air,
But only His mother, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what I can, I give Him – give my heart.

I love the contrast of basic, even rustic elements like wind, snow, hay, animals, and a mother's kiss with the transcendent reality of "God with us."  And that last verse reminds me that the most important thing we have to give to God – and to each other – is something that even the poorest possess.

What can we give this Christmas?  Even children can come up with good answers to this question, since all of us have abilities and resources that come from the heart.  And the wonderful thing about this type of giving is that it keeps us focused on others and on what's important – kindness, peace, and goodwill to all.

35 gifts for everyone this holiday

  • Make eye contact and smile!
  • Share cheerful holiday greetings with everyone you see.
  • Wear masks indoors in public places (it's not about compliance, it's about caring and concern).
  • Hold the door for others.
  • Let someone go before you in line.
  • Be patient and cheerful with those who serve you.
  • Write a thank you note, not for a gift received, but for how helpful/thoughtful/kind/awesome someone has been to you all year.
  • Give a sincere compliment.
  • Donate to the local food pantry.
  • Give clean, unneeded toys and baby items in good condition to a local daycare, family homeless shelter, or domestic abuse shelter.
  • Donate excess coats and winter gear to a homeless shelter.
  • Donate old towels and blankets to a veterinary hospital or animal shelter.
  • Donate unneeded books in good condition to a local school, preschool, homeless shelter, or library.
  • Donate blood.
  • Double your dinner recipe, and deliver the extra meal to a sick, extra-busy, or under-employed friend.
  • Buy coffee for the person behind you in line.
  • Offer an evening of free babysitting to young parents.
  • Follow up with someone who lost a loved one this year.  We tend to show sympathy and then forget about it, even though the grieving process is long.
  • Help a neighbor with yard work.
  • Introduce yourself to a neighbor you don't know.
  • Visit a nursing home.  Many residents don't get visitors and would love some company.
  • Hang extra lights on your house to brighten your neighborhood.
  • Pick up trash as you walk around your neighborhood or a local park.
  • Go caroling.
  • Take care of a chore that is not usually your responsibility.
  • Let your sibling (or someone else) choose the game or movie (or restaurant or other activity).
  • Be a patient, courteous driver.
  • Apologize.
  • Pray for someone not usually on your list.
  • "Remember when...?"  Tell the story of a happy memory you share with a friend or family member.
  • Call someone with whom you've been out of touch.
  • Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and give your focused and undivided attention.
  • Say "I love you."

P.S.  If you'd like to hear "In the Bleak Midwinter," check out this fantastic choral rendition, this warm, folk-style performance, and this amazing multi-part a cappella version recorded by one person!

Just one more thing before you go:  My children's book, Fairhaven Christmas Eve, has a similar theme to this post.  I think you can still get the paperback or hardcover before Christmas if you order right away; the Kindle edition can be delivered immediately!  If you happen to click through and purchase using this link, I will earn a small commission (in addition to my royalty), at no additional cost to you.

Updated June 2023


  1. I dip in and out of blogs just when I have time, so I'm thankful I saw your post last night. I often hear and read the sentiment "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could spread the Christmas spirit all year, and not just these few weeks?" Here are actions that do just that! Thank you for this lovely list. Also, thank you for including the words and music of "In the Bleak Midwinter'--a truly meaningful carol.

    Congratulations on your children's book--Fairhaven Christmas Eve! I've ordered a copy for my granddaughter.

    1. Laura, thank you so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. You're right -- these actions are perfect for "keeping Christmas all the year," as the reformed Scrooge vowed to do. Let's go for it!

  2. Loved Rossetti's poem - thank you for introducing it to me.


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