How to spend the holiday with your spouse.

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The holiday season is here! Before you become overwhelmed, think about the simple things that make the holidays special. A few things that come to mind when I think of simple pleasures are baking cookies and giving them away in decorative tins, volunteering for your favorite charity, having a couples’ movie or game night and so forth. These ideas are great for couples as well as families. There are many more fun things to do during the holidays that involve sharing your time with others. If you can’t think of any, here are five great ideas to bring joy to your holiday season though giving. For starters, you can:

Bake holiday cookies for fun. There is nothing like baking and decorating holiday cookies for fun. Baking and decorating cookies as a couple together can be a time of bonding during the holidays. I knew the holidays were near when my grandmother popped out the ingredients and cooking utensils for baking her cookies and pies. The best part of the whole process was decorating the cookies and anxiously waiting to eat them when she took them out of the oven. As a child, I also loved swiping the bowls with my fingers to get the last taste of sweetness before my grandmother washed the bowls. Fresh in my mind are the splendid smells of colorful sugar cookies and cupcakes with whipped cream and toppings. Sweets certainly made our time together more delightful. As a couple, you can bake cookies, decorate them, put them in colorful tins and give them away as gifts. If you are feeling more creative and have a few extra dollars to spend, try the small gingerbread-house kits. You can find the kits at Amazon,Target, Walmart and Whole Foods for less than $25. Make the house and give it away.

Have a couples’ game night. An essential part of the holidays is spending time with other couples or your friends. Holidays consist of food, togetherness and reminiscing. Add more fun by including a couples’ game night. Get your friends revved up by planning a game night and serve light snacks. You can even have your friends contribute treats as well. Some of my favorite games include Family Feud, 5 Second Rule, Trivial Pursuit and Bounce Off. I can remember playing games, such as The Game of Scattergories, Monopoly, Taboo and Scrabble to mention a few until the wee morning hours. These games are all under $20 and can be found online at Amazon.com. You may already have your favorite games at hand. Games with couples/friends are a great way to relieve stress, reconnect, and learn something new all in the name of fun. Plan your game night and let the fun begin.

Volunteer as a couple. The holiday season is a time for giving. People are volunteering more now than ever because of need and it is very fulfilling. If you haven’t made the time to give during the year, this is the perfect time to dedicate time to your favorite charity or church. For instance, you and your partner can serve in your local community or take a church missions trip abroad to lend a helping hand to families and individuals in need. A few reputable places to volunteer in New York are New York Cares, Times Square Church, Visit a Senior and the National Coalition. Check each site for further details. There are many more reputable charities. If you would rather give, charitable organizations could always use the funds to continue their services. Check an organization’s website for donating through Safari or Google. Other well established organizations for donating are the Salvation Army, St. Jude’s, Toys for Tots, and Angel Tree. There are many charitable organizations that have missions you may be interested in. Please note that I have only mentioned a few charitable opportunities. However, there are many worthy charities for supporting. Do your homework and research them more closely before you commit your time and money. Find out what volunteer opportunities exist in your community or church and donate your time.

Have a couples’ movie night. I love going to the movies. However, the cost of a movie for a couple is roughly $36 not including refreshments or IMAX/3D. If you have cable with great channels, you may find a good movie to watch with your friends or pop in your favorite DVD or stream a newly released movie. If you need more options, then perhaps Amazon Fire is for you. You can experience great new movies through Amazon Fire TV Stick for $34.99 at Amazon.com. The stick has over 250,000 TV episodes and movies on Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, and Hulu, plus games, music and more. If you need more perks, such as high-definition streaming and more viewing options, there is Amazon Fire TV for $99. Both options come with one remote control. Check Amazon.com for the details. These inexpensive toys are for movie goers at home. Check the details before purchasing. It is a great gift for your friends too.

Start a donation/charity jar for giving next year. So, you may not have the extra money to give to a charity this year. However, there is next year. First, you can find a charity that you and your partner are interested in and plan to give a tax-deductible donation for next year. Second, set up a donation jar now labeled with the charity’s name. Third, each of you can contribute a minimum of $1 a week until for one year (52 weeks). That is $104. Every dollar counts. For, instance donating $56 will feed a senior citizen for one week (American Association of Retired Persons, 2015). Or, donating $10 will feed one boy living in Kenya’s refugee camp for three weeks (Unite For Sight, 2015). Also, donating $20 will provide 200 meals for one hungry child in the US (No Kid Hungry, 2015). One of my favorite charitable organizations is Operation Blessing, which has 15 different operational areas for giving, such as human trafficking, safe water projects all over the world including the US. You can give monthly or provide a one-time gift of $25 or more (Christian Broadcasting Network, 2015). Christian Broadcasting Network provides frequent updates on how your money is being used to help those in need locally and globally. Another one of my favorite charities is ChildCry, which provides food to 4,000 children in over 20 countries including the US (Times Square Church, 2015). You can donate to ChildCry with a minimum of $25. Finally, do your homework and research the organization before giving. Giving to a charitable cause is very fulfilling.

These five simple pleasures should help you and your partner to focus as a couple on what is really important during the holidays. It is all about redefining sharing and giving through spending time together in a joyous manner. To be honest, you don’t have to wait until the holidays to have fun or give. Start now and plan to give!

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