12 Simple Ideas to Spread Holiday Cheer This Week


“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” —Brennan Manning

A popular Christmas song boldly declares, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Yet, for many this is rarely the case. Some will be celebrating the holidays for the first time without a loved one. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, or betrayal will be multiplied over the coming weeks. Often times unmet expectations of the holiday season mix with the grey and gloom of winter to bring deep levels of depression. And for most people, the hustle and bustle of extra shopping, extra parties, crowded parking lots and check-out lines lead to greater stress than other times of the year.

Yes, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year is too often felt as the most difficult.

But we can change that.

Well, we probably can’t change it for everybody. But we can intentionally spread some holiday cheer this week and make it a little more wonderful for somebody. And if we can brighten one person’s day, maybe their smile can brighten one more.

Plus, given the fact the quickest way to find happiness is to help someone else find theirs, intentionally spreading holiday cheer is the best way to find it ourselves. Consider this list of simple ideas you could complete this week. Most of them cost less than $20 and will take less than 10 minutes.

12 Uniquely Simple Ideas to Spread Some Holiday Cheer

1. Handwrite a letter. The handwritten letter has become a lost art in our world. During the holiday season, the handwritten letter has been replaced by the mass produced-family-photo-card-purchased-on-Shutterfly. And in a world where handwritten letters have been forgotten, their uniqueness and value increases dramatically. So find yourself 10 minutes, a stamp, and an envelope. Choose an old friend with a current street address and put some of your thoughts of appreciation on paper. You’ll be glad you did. And it will be the best piece of mail your friend receives this holiday season.

2. FaceTime/Skype an old friend. Technology has entirely changed our lives. In my lifetime alone, the idea of video conferencing with a friend has gone from far-fetched science fiction to cultural norm. Use it to your advantage by connecting face-to-face with an old friend or a friend halfway around the world. It doesn’t need to be too long, just lengthy enough to wish them a happy holiday and maybe compare how much the children have grown.

3. Buy coffee for a stranger. Next time you roll through the drive-thru of your local coffee shop, offer to pay for yourself and the person behind you (if they have already ordered, the cashier should have their bill handy). Or better yet, a little trick I learned from a friend is to leave a $20 bill with the cashier after you pay and ask him/her to pay for the following customers until the $20 runs out. Either way, coupled with their favorite beverage, this pleasant surprise is guaranteed to brighten someone’s day.

4. Smile and joke with your next cashier. The hustle and bustle and stress-filled shopping days leading up to Christmas results in plenty of customer-frustration. Parking lots are crowded, shelves are empty, aisles are full, and check-out lines are long. During these days in retail, even the simplest of smiles from a customer is too rare and fleeting. Next time you reach the front of the check-out line, make the most of your interaction by smiling, engaging, and flashing a little humor.

5. Leave a nice tip. Rare is the waiter or waitress getting wealthy at their job serving food to patrons. Most of the servers I know are working the shift just trying to make the ends meet for themselves and their family. An extra $20 added to their nightly tip will certainly bring some extra holiday cheer—especially during a busy time of the year when they’d rather be home with their family.

6. Buy movie tickets for a family in your neighborhood. Know somebody on your block who has fallen into some difficult financial times? How ’bout putting some movie gift cards in an envelope and leaving it on their doorstep? Time with family is always good. And some holiday entertainment may be just the distraction they need to experience a little extra cheer.

7. Ask your religious friend about the story behind the season. Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and other religions all celebrate important dates and remembrances during the month of December. The next time you are at a holiday party, ask your spiritual friend the story behind their religion’s celebration. Almost certainly, their eyes will light up that somebody expressed interest in something so important to them. And whether you choose to believe the story or not, you will become better informed about another culture’s understanding of the season. Win-win.

8. Invite someone over for dinner. For any number of reasons, there are many people alone during the holidays. If you know someone alone this season, open your house to them for a meal. Rather than infringing on your holiday traditions, it may just become one of your favorites.

9. Send a gift of food/coffee. There are countless inexpensive, clutter-free gift ideas that can be shipped nearly anywhere in the world. With minimal expense and just a few mouse clicks, you can easily send an edible gift to show someone your appreciation for them. For example, a good friend just gifted me a membership to Mistobox. Needless to say, its arrival is virtually guaranteed to spread some holiday cheer into my coffee mug.

10. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway. I learned it from my dad years ago. Now granted, with the prevalence of snowblowers nowadays, this early morning surprise may be a little less appreciated than in years past. But if you can bring a little cheer to your neighbor’s face on a cold, snowy morning during the holiday season, your good deed will not go unnoticed—and will likely get mentioned by the recipient as soon as they arrive at work. And when it does, it will sound something like this, “You’ll never guess what my neighbor did for me this morning…”

11. Bring in a warm breakfast for your office. Doughnuts are great. I mean, everybody loves the guy who brings in doughnuts. But to take it even one step further this holiday season, bring in something warm for your officemates to eat. If the timing is right, you can bring in something homemade. But I once had a boss unexpectedly bring in 25 various breakfast sandwiches from McDonalds and place them on the counter for the office staff. Certainly, it cost him a lot more than a dozen doughnuts. But I still talk about those breakfast sandwiches even 5 years later.

12. Go ahead, sing along. Whether in your car, in the office, or in the store, you know the songs. They get played every year. And quite frankly, some of them are pretty darn catchy. So go ahead, sing along when you get the chance. It’ll brighten your mood and almost certainly the mood of the person next to you as well. Even if singing isn’t your strongest talent, you can always hum along. Remember, cheerfulness is contagious.

We probably can’t change the entire world with these simple ideas. But we can still intentionally seek to add life and cheer to the people around us. And as a result, make this season a little more wonderful.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. Thomas says

    “In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

    Important step to realize that life is drained by someone or something.

    Joshua, thanks for your ideas bringing a smile in someones face. I immediately started to think about how I can do this.

  2. gretchen says

    joshua, you’ve already brought a smile to my face this morning! and you’ve given me some great ideas that i can put into practice immediately. thank you for all the good that you do and wishing you holiday cheer.

  3. Anna Winton Mills says

    Thank you for the drip feed of inspiration.I am grateful for your help in making some small and some enormous changes in my life.Wishing you every happiness for Christmas and the New Year.

  4. everlearning says

    Now THIS is the way to enjoy the holiday season!!! These are the kinds of things that truly bring JOY to our lives as we give TRUE GIFTS to others (as well as JOY). The only sad part about this is that it has to be said/written/encouraged. We should be doing things like this all the time. It should be part of our nature to give and bring joy. That’s what the quote from Brennan Manning is about. Let’s make an effort to change the world – one good deed at a time! I’m happier already during this crazy time of year just by reading this wonderful post! Thank you, Joshua!

  5. says

    Great ideas! If I could add one more it would be to just visit with or take fruit baskets to your local nursing homes. So many elderly are alone during the holidays and it really brightens their day to have visitors.

  6. says

    Thank you Joshua, I have been following you for quite some time now and everyday I look forward to your inspirational words. Today’s ideas were great. I must tell you that some of my most happiness this season comes from giving to others, recently to our waitress who told us she had two sons she is a single Mom working to jobs…did just what you suggested huge tip and we got out before she saw it, another evening a young man and a girl walked in to a restaurant he was in his full military suit, our waitress also waited on his table,as we were leaving I told her I wanted to pay his tip, she said I’ll tell him and I said not till we leave, I can’t describe the joy it has brought. Then I have to tell you coming back from a vacation in N.H. this weekend we got to a $2.00 toll and when I handed the money to the toll taker she said it was paid by the car in front of you with a message Merry Christmas. I was so overwhelmed and kept saying to my husband wasn’t that so nice of them, he replied now you know what you bring to others. Keep up with your wonderful inspiration!

  7. Margo says

    Along the lines of Number 4 we gave out candies to cashiers and other employees while shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving. Most gave a big smile and thank you to be thought of during those hectic days. I am sure the idea could be extended over the whole month.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. says

    Thank you for this wonderful list of holiday cheer. I have found what you share to be true as well. Giving to others lifts your own spirit as well as the person you are blessing! I am sending my husband to work tomorrow with pumpkin muffins for his office–so excited to spread more holiday cheer. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  9. Julie says

    Thank you very much for this. I lost my mom earlier this year so this will be our first Christmas without her. Thank you for thinking to acknowledge people who are grieving. And thank you for reminding me of the wonders of Christmas spirit. I read once about a family that wrapped up boxes of chocolates, drove around, and gave them to people randomly. I see that chocolates are a good price at my local drug store so I think I’ll give it a go. Merry Christmas.

  10. Janice says

    Shopping at a thrift store I was wearing a Christmassy red Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie passed to me from my daughter (i LOVE her like new hand me downs). A young female employee working there commented ‘i LIKE your shirt!’ When checking out this same girl waited on me. It appeared she needed clothes more than me…I inquired what size she wore and asked if she’d like the hoodie. I proceeded to give her the hoodie. I believe she was very pleasantly SHOCKED! So thanks to your post today and my daughters sharing w me someone’s day was just made…I heard her exclaim to the next customers as I went out the door ~ ‘she just gave me the shirt off her back!’ Lol was a great feeling ~ thank you Joshua…

  11. Karrie says

    Great ideas for the season. Just for information purposes, Muslims do not celebrate any holiday in December as a regular holiday. We go by the lunar calendar so holidays change year by year. Ramadan was during the month of December many years ago. I remember standing in line during the month of December and the cashier was talking about Christmas. I said we celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan. Another lady chimed in, in line behind me and said Ramadan Mubarak. She had a friend that was Muslim and knew about the upcoming holiday. It is very nice talking to a variety of people who have open minds and want to learn about others and their traditions. That is why the US is such a great melting pot and we can be open to learning about others. It should be year round, not just the December holidays, but it’s a great start. Thanks for promoting peace and goodwill. :) Happy Holidays to you and keep blogging. LOVE your blog.

  12. says

    Wonderful suggestions Josh! They can really touch and warm the hearts of others and bring a smile.

    If random acts of kindness inspired others to do the same we would all be very fortunate with cheerier and happier neighborhoods, workplaces and the world. Merry Christmas!

  13. says

    Awesome list Joshua! I do believe our generosity and caring for others can help minimize depression and loneliness. There is just a good feeling when we help others. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Austin Val says

    For the past three years I’ve been tipping the kitchen staff (cooks, dish washers, prep guys) at my favorite restaurant, either just before Christmas or just before Thanksgiving. THEY are the reason I eat there, not the waitstaff (though I tip them well each time I eat there.) I vary the giving date so they don’t “expect” it. I think next year I’ll tip them in the middle of the hot summer.

  15. says


    It sure is the little things! I think about Jesus and how ONE person meant so much to him. He was approachable, compassionate and yes fun too! It’s nice to have a small lis of possibilities if we can make the decision to turn our focus outward.

    I used the same song in my blog about Christmas…’It’ the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’…is it? A bit of a different approach but here it is if you’d like to see :

  16. Keith says

    Came to this entry via Allison Vesterfelt, and am very glad I did.

    Life, amongst other things, is simply a series of choices. We need to feel sad and mourn at times, it is healthy. We also need to feel grateful, thankful and inner joy at times, it is healthy. We have to choose to budget our sadness and mourning while trying to maximize our thankfulness.

    It’s okay to feel a bit sad about missing my deceased parents and daughter but I am also profoundly thankful for my wife, son and grandchildren. It’s my “job” to spread joy and thankfulness to them every day.

    We can’t change the whole world but we can change it for one person or animal at a time. It may cost us nothing but our time. It’s our choice, choose “wisely”!

  17. says

    I love all these ideas and actually do some of them during the Christmas season but also a couple at random times during the year. I’m one of the few who still writes a letter and I have had some of my photos made into postcards so I can drop short lines to someone during the year. One that seems to always mean the most though is inviting someone who is alone or experiencing difficulties over for dinner. And if a person is a bit shy to do so, make a full meal and deliver it! Even that is greatly appreciated

  18. Mary Howenstine says

    While I like your ideas, I wonder what you think “minimal” expense is — in terms of paying for food shipping. The convenience fee is often more than the food item.

  19. Mike Ronson says

    I think if you “choose to believe something” you really don’t believe it. Personally, I can’t help what I believe.

  20. Anna says

    Some truly great ideas! I will add one that I was happy to please with: In my country of Sweden we have the tradition of celebrating Santa Lucia (google it…) and me and my kids went on a Lucia walk. We went to those we know who dont have kids or close family around and we sang and handed out ginger bread cookies (swedish xmas tradition). It was a bit like your halloween – lots of fun :)
    And yes, we saw more Tham one person cry with joy and thankfulness <3

  21. Ralf says

    I like #8. When I worked in China I was invited to a family dinner by a colleague at Chinese New Year. His father didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Chinese, but we had a jolly good time playing Chinese Chess, a favourite of Chinese old men in public parks.

  22. says

    Train travel is a real possibility when folks retire, to at last enjoy travel. Travel by railway also avoids just so much of the pressure that is now associated with airline travel. Rail travel is also often cheaper than many people think. There’s a significant variety of railway travel opportunities out there to pick from. So, there’s certain to be a holiday experience, well suited to you. Next time you’re looking for a retirement adventure, why not get on track, with a great train experience!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Holiday Cheer | Invisible Shadow | December 21, 2013
  2. The Good Stuff: Weekend Links | December 24, 2013

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