Christmas Activities to Make People Smile
by Clark L and Kathryn H. Kidd

Christmas is the season of giving, and that extends to ward activities.  Even though the holiday season is traditionally the busiest time of year, it is also a time when people’s hearts are open to the idea of serving others. 

If you want to do a service activity, you’ll probably find that ward members are more than willing to make room in their already crowded schedules to make room for service.  This service may take many forms.  For example, there are always families who need sub-for-Santa assistance.  If a sub-for-Santa project appeals to you, talk to your bishop to see if there are any ward members who may benefit from anonymous help.  Your bishop may even be able to exchange families with a bishop from a neighboring ward, so your whole ward can participate in a way that will not embarrass anyone who receives assistance.

Some communities offer community-wide packaging centers where service-oriented people can go and lend a few hours to sort and package donated objects to give to shut-ins or those in need.  If your community offers such a service, you may want to take a quorum or class with you one night to help the project.  If your community does not offer such a service, an ambitious person or ward can put this activity together.  Department store managers are often eager to offer scratch-and-dent items or last season’s stock to help with a Christmas community project, and local restaurant owners can help by donating food to volunteer workers.  Organizers collect the goods into a central location, and volunteers come to that location to sort items for nursing homes or families in need.  Then the packages are delivered to nursing homes, or parents visit the free Christmas store to pick up items for their children.  This is a good tax write-off for the businesses that donate goods or food, and a project that starts in your cultural hall may end up in a local football stadium.  All it takes is a little organizational savvy.

Here are three other holiday ideas that might take root in your ward.  The first one may be familiar to you, but the other two are new.  You still have time to organize a service project before the end of the year.

Twelve Days Before Christmas

This is a great service activity that can be done right before (say 12 days before) a holiday such as Christmas.  The object is for your group or quorum to adopt a member of the group who doesn’t usually attend church activities, and give some sort of recognition to that person for the twelve days before Christmas.  To make this service activity even more fun, do it anonymously. 

Decide what you want to do for the 12 days and then divide up the days by the number in your group.  You will need to gear your surprises to the age and gender of the recipient.  For example, for a teacher-age boy, gifts might include:  one orange, two movie tickets, three bags of candy, four bags of popcorn, five packs of gum, and so on.  Sponsoring a Days of Christmas project can be as much fun for the givers as for the receivers, because of the creativity involved in selecting and purchasing the twelve different gifts.

A variation on this theme is to be “Christmas Pixies” and do three weeks of Christmas service projects for the three weeks leading up to Christmas.  For example, the first week could be dedicated to your community.  Activities might include visiting, singing and helping out at a rest home or local hospital.  The second week could be dedicated to your neighborhood.  Activities might include baking cookies and delivering them to your local police, firemen, or local public works office.  The third and final week could be dedicated to your fellow ward members, your family, or your extended family.  Activities might include writing and delivering Christmas cards, doing extra chores around the house or volunteering to wrap presents.

Post Office Elves

Have you ever wondered what happens to those letters that arrive at your local post office addressed to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy?  Most of the time they just go into the dead letter drop.  However, there are times when the letters have legitimate return addresses and the senders actually expect to receive a reply. 

Here’s where your assistance comes in.  Have your Young Men or Young Women group go the second mile and try to fulfill the wishes of the small senders.  Ask your local Post Office to give these dead letters to your group.  Then find someone with a creative mind to write responses where only a letter is needed, and someone with excellent handwriting to provide the penmanship.  Others in your group can think up clever and unique ways to fill the wishes and requests.  This can be a good character-building activity for your entire group because it shows them how fortunate they are to have so much.  At the same time, performing this service may quite possibly fulfill the wishes of someone whose needs would otherwise be unfulfilled.

Tithing Settlement Care Packages

The bishop is an unsung hero all year, but no time is more stressful for him than the annual tithing settlement.  At a time when most families are spending their holidays together, the bishop and his financial clerk have the responsibility of meeting with every member of every family in the ward to determine tithing status.  Not only that, but the bishop also uses this meeting to check up on families in the ward and visit with each member for only a moment or two, just to make sure there are no hidden problems that he should be aware of.

Because so many families have to be met, the bishop and those who assist him will often go directly to the ward meetinghouse from work, or stay at the meetinghouse all day on a Saturday or Sunday, just to finish their task.  They have to do this, but they don’t have to be hungry while they’re doing it.

If your ward auxiliary is looking for a holiday service activity, you may want to consider taking care packages to the people who are working on tithing settlement.  This should consist of food that can be consumed in hurried gulps between appointments.  This isn’t a good time to make submarine sandwiches.  Finger food is more appropriate.  Some foods to consider are these:

         Small sandwiches that aren’t messy
         Chips, with or without dip
         Single-serving bottles of water or juice
         Small pieces of fruit
     (grapes are excellent, as are many dried fruits)

         Vegetable sticks, with or without dip
         Bite-sized appetizers that taste good cold

If your organization takes on this project, the first thing you’ll need to obtain is the bishop’s schedule for tithing settlement.  The best person to give you this is the ward financial clerk, who will be on hand for every appointment.  Be sure to ask him to let you know if additional appointment days are added to the calendar!  The financial clerk should also be able to tell you how many people will be helping the bishop during tithing settlement.  You can’t just feed the bishop without providing food for the clerks and counselors who are on hand to help him.

After you know how many days are involved, the next thing to do is to coordinate your activity with the bishop’s wife.  She can tell you if the bishop has any food allergies or any favorite (or unfavorite) snack foods.  Working with her will also guarantee that she won’t make a big meal for her husband before sending him off to tithing settlement.  After all, feeding the bishop at tithing settlement is a service to the bishop’s wife as well as to the bishop.

After you have talked to the ward financial clerk and the bishop’s wife, the next thing to do is to make your assignments.  Members of your organization can sign up for different days, or your auxiliary members can work as a group.  The bishop and his assistants will obviously not need as much food if they’re meeting for two hours one evening as they will if they’re meeting from daybreak to sundown on a Saturday, and this should be taken into account. 

Once you and your organization have committed to supply food at tithing settlement, make sure you follow through.  If food is promised, it should be delivered.  The bishop and his assistants may not have asked for this service, but they’ll look forward to it once they know it’s coming.  Don’t let them starve on your account.

Be sure to write us at [email protected] if you have any ideas of your own that we can use next year.  Service is appreciated any time, but there’s something special about helping others during the Christmas season.