Santa, also known as St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Mr. Claus, and Father Christmas, is infamous for his gift-giving skills! His legend can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. Admired for traveling the countryside and giving away all of his inherited wealth to the poor and sick, St. Nicholas and his generosity became the subject of many legends. His notoriety for sharing gifts, particularly to children, has been a rich part of American Christmas traditions since the early 19th century.
The Science of Santa
Why do we have such a fondness for Santa and keep his spirit alive so many years later? Research around "giving" may give us a clue. It has been discovered that when we give to others, the hormone oxytocin, is released which induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others.
In addition, there was a 2003 study on elderly couples that showed when they "gifted" to friends, relatives, spouses, or neighbors through practical ways and emotional support, they increased their life span by five years compared to those who didn't give at all. More research further suggests that generosity helps us improve physically and increases our longevity because it decreases stress that's directly linked to health issues.
With this in mind, it's no wonder we love Santa. As he inspires us to be generous to one another during the holidays, we end up feeling better both physically and emotionally.
Gift That Go Beyond Stockings
If your heart and mind are poised for sharing gifts this year, we have six ways you can be more generous than ol' Saint Nick himself!
- Give Experiences. Sometimes the best present can't be stuffed in a stocking or tucked under a tree. Giving someone an experience, like a cooking class, scuba lesson, wine tasting, shopping spree, or a trip to Disney, is highly memorable. Even the simple gift of an ice-cream date with Grandma comes with treasured memories in the making.
- Give, and Keep Giving. Surprising a loved one with monthly or annual subscriptions to goodies or services they enjoy is a wonderful way to remind them of your love beyond Christmas morning. Consider gifting a year of Netflix or Disney+ access, wine or fruit selections, beauty boxes, or puzzles! Yes, there's a puzzle club called Jiggy with frame-worthy puzzles that arrive four times a year.
- Give Anonymously. Choose to be a secret Santa to someone this year, and perform random acts of kindness such as paying for someone's coffee, leaving a generous tip on your next meal out, or shopping for a child in need through a local angel tree. Want to keep it closer to home? Quietly drop off a gift at your neighbor's doorstep with a sweet note from "Santa." Maybe add a clue, so they can have extra fun trying to figure out who was so kind and generous.
- Give a Solution. Much like the gift of experiences, giving someone a "solution" goes beyond boxes and bows. Instead of things or stuff, you could donate to a cause that's dear to your heart, adopt a family's needs for the holidays, or drop off canned goods at the local food bank all in someone's honor.
Looking for an idea that's unique and highly rewarding? Consider the gift of a sheep, goat, flock of chicks, or access to clean water to those in underdeveloped countries. Heifer International has a gift catalog with many ideas and creative ways to give!
- Give Something Only You Can Give. Do you have a family heirloom you could share? Are there recipes or family stories you could pass along in the form of a gift? More than anything money could buy, your loved ones will cherish knowing your life experiences and the rich history of their heritage. The simple act of writing these notes in a journal is sure to bring great joy.
If you want to create more of a keepsake to preserve your family traditions for generations to come, consider engraving a favorite family recipe on a wooden cutting board. Or, purchase a grandparent journal that comes with guided questions and prompts throughout to help you write the story of your life for your kids and grandchildren.
- Give "Just Because." Santa only comes around once a year, but why wait for Christmas to give something special? Live a life of generosity and give often. It doesn't even have to be a large gesture. Leo Buscaglia, an American author and motivational speaker once said, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." A small gift of love is all it takes, and it often doesn't cost a thing.
The act of giving is a powerful and immediate way to spark happiness in your life. The residents at Resort Lifestyle Communities experience this type of joy in many ways. From collecting canned goods and knitting sleeping mats for the homeless to rocking in chairs to raise money for Alzheimer's, many of our communities come together to serve and love others. (You can read more about it in this article.) These activities promote social connection and give residents a chance to feel pretty jolly.
Want to join us in the act of giving? Come tour a community and find out about our ongoing programs and events. There's always something happy happening at RLC, and we'd love to have your company.