It can be tough to get into a holiday frame of mind when daytime temperatures are hovering in the high 70s; a big chunk of the state has been blackened by fire; and the political situation is, well, chaotic may be the most diplomatic way to describe it.
Not exactly the makings of a “season to be jolly” right?
Perhaps we can help. If you’re in a bah-humbug frame of mind, we offer a dozen ways to shake it off and get into the giving spirit of the holidays.
As we have in past years, we turn to the classic carol “The 12 Days of Christmas” for inspiration. Try one or two or, even better, come up with your own ways to mark this season of giving.
First day: A partridge in a pear tree
Support local growers — whether they raise pears or any other foodstuffs. Drop by a farmer’s market or farm stand; make a point of dining out at a restaurant that serves locally grown produce; or buy some local honey, lavender, olive oil or any other SLO-grown ag products to give family and friends on Christmas Day. Recipients — and farmers — will thank you.
Second Day: Two turtle doves
Doves being the symbol of peace, Day Two is a great opportunity to help families dealing with domestic violence. StandStrong — formerly the Women’s Shelter Program — suggests two ways to help clients during the holidays. One is to donate Target, WalMart and Food 4 Less gift cards. That allows clients to shop for their own food and gifts for their children. But act fast; gift cards are being collected through Dec. 13. Call 805-781-6401, ext. 225 for more information or to arrange delivery.
Another opportunity to help: Purchase StandStrong holiday art cards; a set of a dozen cards is $20. To purchase, email StandStrong at email@example.com or call 805-781-6401.
Third day: Three French hens
Think French horns instead of French hens. Take in a musical performance, and invite a friend or neighbor who could use some company over the holidays.
Fourth day: Four calling birds
Volunteer four or more hours to one of the many local organizations calling for help. United Way’s VolunteerSLO (https://www.volunteerslo.org/) lists several holiday opportunities, including gift wrapping and chaperoning at homeless shelters and warming centers, as well as year-round activities.
Fifth day: Five golden rings
Christmas is anything but golden for Southern California residents whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by fire. Here are five ways to help:
▪ Donate to the Thomas Fire Fund, a joint project of The United Way of Ventura County, American Red Cross of Ventura County and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. Donate on United Way of Ventura County’s website, over the phone at 805-485-6288, or mail checks with “Thomas Fire Fund” in the memo line to 702 County Square Drive, Suite 100, Ventura 93003.
▪ YouCaringYouCaring, an online crowd-funding platform, has created a landing page with all of its campaigns for Southern California wildfire relief.
▪ The Humane Society of Ventura County is in need of donations after taking in more than 300 animals since the fires began Monday. The organization has set up a registry wishlist on Amazon.com with items needed to care for the diverse group of animals currently in its care.
Sixth Day: Six geese a-laying
Help those with no permanent place to lay their heads by donating to Care Packages For Christmas. Now in its 20th year in San Luis Obispo County, the program provides brand new sleeping bags, jackets, sweatshirts and other essentials to homeless people in our area. The volunteer organization also serves a Christmas Dinner — on Christmas Day — to homeless people. It’s looking for volunteers to help out; if you can call Sheri Eibschutz at 594-1999. To donate money for a care package go to https://unitedwayslo.org/carepackages.
Seventh Day: Seven swans a-swimming
Unfortunately, not everyone is doing swimmingly this holiday season. Do your part for the health and well-being of Central Coast residents by donating a pint of blood over the holidays.
Remember, blood donations are unpredictable at this time of year. Regular donors may be traveling or may not have time to drop by the blood bank. And when schools shut down for the holidays, blood supplies drop, since students account for 15 percent of donors.
An added incentive: Donate between now and Dec. 17 and while supplies last, you’ll receive a free pair of super-cute holiday blood donor socks. Go to http://www.unitedbloodservices.org/centralcoast/ to book an appointment or call 805-543-4290.
Eighth Day: Eight maids a-milking
It’s be kind to animals day though, you don’t need to milk a cow to show you care. Instead, consider a donation to a local shelter or rescue organization. Or have your cake and eat it too by making a reservation for lunch or dinner at Mother’s Tavern. Ask for Table 48 — proceeds from sales at that particular table go to Woods Humane Society through the end of the year. (A different nonprofit is showcased every quarter.)
And if you’re lucky enough to have an animal friend at home, do something special for him or her this month, like an extra-long walk, an outing with the family or a favorite treat.
Ninth Day: Nine ladies dancing
Donate those dancing duds you no longer need — as well as more practical clothing — to a favorite charity thrift shop. If you have kids or teenagers who have outgrown their clothes, the Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast has several drop-off sites.
Tenth day: Ten lords a-leaping
Make little lords and ladies leap for joy by donating a toy or two to a local toy drive. Cal Fire’s Operation Santa Claus toy drive is in full swing. Donations of new, unwrapped toys can be delivered to any local fire station or to several local businesses. Go to http://www.ksby.com/category/297071/season-of-hope-san-luis-obispo-county for a complete list of drop-off sites.
Eleventh day: Eleven pipers piping
Pipe up for what you’re passionate about — be it kids, education, helping the homeless, protecting the environment, rescuing animals, preserving history or curing a disease. Tell your friends and your neighbors ... join a support group ... write a letter to the editor ... donate $11 (or more) or 11 hours of time (or more) to an organization that’s making a difference.
Twelfth day: Twelve drummers drumming
Bake twelve cookies, cupcakes or cobblers and share them with your co-workers, friends, neighbors. Another idea: Bake a dozen dog biscuits and offer them to some four-legged friends. Extra credit if they’re drum-shaped.
How the “12 Days” tradition started
In 2012, we heard about a young San Luis Obispo couple who decided to perform 12 random acts of kindness in honor of a family member who wasn’t into store-bought gifts. The couple took photos to document their good deeds, and gave those to the recipient. Among their gifts: One pint of blood (his) donated to United Blood Services; five toys donated to Toys for Tots; and 10 inches of hair (hers) donated to Locks of Love.
Thinking we had a great holiday story on our hands, we tried to track down the couple. No luck. Not willing to give up completely, we decided to borrow their idea by suggesting 12 days of good deeds, many with a SLO County twist.