How I Became Santa Claus

Each December, I awaited its arrival as fervently as many other kids anticipated Santa Claus. I raced into school each day to see if it had taken its place in our main hallway yet. And then, when it finally appeared, I excitedly perused the ornaments to find “my kid.”

It was called the giving tree, and its ornaments represented needy children from our tiny town. Each one listed the child’s age and interests, and after picking an ornament, you bought presents for that child and delivered them to the nurse’s office.

The giving tree has always been one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. It showcases the power of altruism and the true meaning of holiday spirit.

I grew up with both a menorah and a Christmas tree, and I don’t consider myself religious. But I’ve always loved Christmas. The giving tree was a big part of that: I enjoyed thinking about each child and deciding which present would bring a smile to their face.

Even after I graduated high school, I continued to find giving trees in each town I lived in. When I moved to South Korea and discovered it wasn’t a tradition there, I organized a donation drive for the local orphanage. A few days before Christmas, several friends and I delivered the gifts together. We made gingerbread houses and sang Christmas carols, and one of my friends even dressed up as Santa Claus.

The look on the kids’ faces as they saw Santa Claus and opened their gifts is something I’ll never forget. Though I don’t often get to see the recipients of my giving-tree gifts, I imagine their reactions are similar.

Theoretically, Santa Claus has the best job in the world: spreading cheer and joy to each and every child. And the giving tree allows you to become Santa — on an infinitely smaller scale, of course.

Buying gifts for the giving tree remains one of the brightest spots of my holiday season. Giving back always makes you grateful for what you have, and participating in the giving tree is an easy and fun way to remember what the holiday is truly about.

If you want to feel like Santa Claus, here’s how to find a giving tree in your city:

  • Look around the mall, as that’s often where they’re set up.
  • Call and ask your police and fire departments (using the nonemergency line, of course) or city hall.
  • Google “angel tree” or “giving tree” with your city’s name.
  • Ask the Salvation Army or local food bank.

Can’t find a giving tree in your area? Maybe it’s time to start one. Though you won’t have time this year, put it on your calendar for next fall. For now, call a local orphanage or shelter and ask them what they need, then pick up some gifts for the children there. You’ll never feel more in the holiday spirit than when you devote time to helping others.

Image source: Bigstock