Did you ever wonder why Christmas is on December 25th? … or why we decorate pine trees if Jesus was born in the Middle East? To make the long story short (while begging forgiveness from my theology professors for the oversimplification), it has to do with the Roman Empire adopting Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century. When the Romans moved to conquer what is now England and Germany, the people they were conquering were more than a little reluctant to give up their celebration of the solstice and their understanding of the wonder of trees…. so the two religions “merged”, allowing these symbols to become part of the Christian tradition.
And what about the 12 days of Christmas? Christmas (the religious holiday, not the shopping season) starts on December 25th and ends twelve days later on January 6th (Epiphany)… hence 12 days.
As I thought about the holiday season, and the 12 days of Christmas, I came up with a different idea to celebrate this season… What if we all started a new tradition of donating a small amount to worthy groups for twelve days?
I’ve listed twelve of my favorite charities below, but feel free to come up with your own. Even if you donate a few dollars to each one, you are celebrating the season of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and the Solstice in a powerful way.
- Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontiers). This amazing group takes medical care into parts of the world where no one else will go. Their entire charter is worth reading, but they live by “observing neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance.”
- Your local food bank. Whatever preconceived notion you might have about hunger in America is almost surely wrong. So many families, Seniors and disabled folx rely on food banks. Make this year a time to learn more about hunger in America and donate to feed your neighbors.
- A local animal shelter. Kindness to animals is the mark of a compassionate heart.
- Neighborhood initiatives. Regardless of your own religious background, or lack thereof, mosques, churches, temples, and synagogues seek to help those in need. Find the places of worship in your neighborhood, look online to see what good works they are doing, and donate to help them. Better yet, take your donation in person to meet your neighbor and thank them for their work.
- Donate to help fight discrimination and oppression. There are so many important groups working for justice, a particularly important mission during this time of conflict and division. Consider donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, RAICES, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU or other groups focusing on justice for all.
- Action Against Hunger. This group spends 94% of the money they raise in 47 countries to “take decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger.”
- The National Alliance to End Homelessness. You can also donate to local shelters for the homeless, or programs like Healthcare for the Homeless in your town or city.
- Prevent Child Abuse America. As someone who works with abused children, I would also encourage you to donate to the chaplain program at your local children’s hospital. The chaplains see the specific needs of these children – but more often than not don’t have resources to provide meal vouchers, toys or clothes to help a family during these moments of tragedy and pain.
- Consider donating to a group that is working to stop climate change, or other groups that advocate for and protect our natural resources such as the American Bird Conservancy or the Nature Conservancy.
- Make sure an isolated senior has a visitor and food by donating to Meals on Wheels.
- Time. If you don’t have money to donate, make a commitment to volunteer with a local group to help others. “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” ~Winston Churchill
- I am personally involved with FAM Houston (consider this my COI declaration!), a group that inspires me through their mission of “working for justice by building empowered community among refugees, immigrants, and local Houstonians.” Through building friendships and creating community they show that any light, no matter how small, is a miracle of love. If you are in need of a worthy group for your twelfth day of Christmas donation, please consider them!