15 Wholesome Ways To Give Back This Christmas 2021

By Kathryn Steane
7th Dec 2021

Two friends exchange gifts.

It's no secret we love Christmas and all the glitz and glam that comes with it, from beautifully wrapped gifts beneath pretty trees to swanky end-of-year parties with fancy food and drink. However, we also know that, as the Grinch himself discovered, 'Christmas means a little bit more'.

It's about spending time with loved ones, creating special memories and most important—helping out those less fortunate than ourselves. With that said, here are some simple ways you can give a little something back this festive season—who knows, maybe your heart will even grow a few sizes bigger, just as the Grinch's did...

Donate To Ronald McDonald House Charities' Gift Of Time Together Appeal

Top of our to-give list this year is Ronald McDonald House Charities, who are on a mission to make sure that no child misses out on the magic of Christmas (because let's face it, this is one holiday that really is about the kids). By donating to their Gift Of Time Together Appeal, you're giving families with little ones in hospital and away from home the ultimate Christmas gift (time together!) by covering the cost of accommodation for them to stay at Ronald McDonald House over the festive season, as well as meals and more.

Grab One Of These Stylish Tees For A Cure

Breast Cancer Cure's Tees for a Cure have always been a fave here at Urban List and this year they've arrived just in time for Christmas. Featuring styles from 15 top Kiwi designers including Karen Walker, Hailwood, Tuesday Label, STORM, and Kathryn Wilson, these limited-edition tees (which, btw, include a re-issue of Karen's iconic chrysanthemum flower design from the early 2000s) are available here for just $59, with your purchase contributing towards Breast Cancer Cure’s ongoing research. Considering approximately 3,500 New Zealanders are diagnosed with breast cancer every single year, we reckon this is one of the most meaningful gifts you can give this Christmas, whether it's to yourself, someone else, or both.

Give To The Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

In the 28 years since it started, the annual Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal—a partnership with long-running charity, The Salvation Army—has handed out more than half a million Christmas presents to Kiwis in need, earning itself the title of New Zealand's largest and longest-running gift appeal.

The premise for this one's simple—buy a present of your choice, and leave it under the Christmas tree instore (alternatively, you can drop it at the Click & Collect station). In a true show of Christmas spirit, the gift doesn't even have to be purchased from Kmart (though let's be honest, it probably will be!); however, the company does encourage practical presents that last beyond the festive season, as well as those for teenagers and older boys (the groups it struggles most to get gifts for).

This year, the retail giant is also accepting cash contributions at the checkout or online which go directly to The Salvation Army, making the spirit of giving even easier. Oh, and all you last-minute shoppers out there needn't worry—Kmart will be accepting these offers of help right up until Christmas Eve. Get giving.

Gift A Cleaner Coastline With Sustainable Coastlines

How's this for a mind-blow... in the week following Christmas, we Kiwis produce a whopping 50,000 tonnes of rubbish (think packaging, wrapping paper, ribbons, cards). That said, you might want to consider giving environmentally-minded friends and family a 'donation gift' this year that allows local charity, Sustainable Coastlines to remove sackfuls of litter from beaches and rivers on their behalf. Options start from $35 for two sackfuls/100 litres of rubbish.

Donate To The Christmas Joy Store

The Kindness Collective is bringing the feels, big-time this Christmas with a very special toy and treat shop that will operate throughout December. The Christmas Joy Store gives parents and caregivers in need the ability to shop for Christmas presents and food for their children, for absolutely free (because newsflash: over 50,000 Kiwi kids wake up on Christmas morning to not even a single pressie). Check out how to donate to this amazing cause, and other initiatives run by The Kindness Collective (including those for Women's Refuge and Taonga Education Centre), here.

Shop Up A Storm With Oxfam

The award for the most creative way to give back this Christmas goes to Oxfam, with meaningful gift ideas that are completely outside the box (and as such, don't come in one). This well-known charity/development organisation offers a great range of alternative pressies through its Unwrapped range, whereby you choose a gift card representing a particular issue, which is then given to your loved one while the physical present is sent to the person/s in need.

If you're in the mood for splashing some cash, choose the Water For A School option (from $106), which helps bring clean water to an entire school in Papua New Guinea; or for something a little cheaper but with equally sweet sentiment, consider the Honey Bees (from $24), which helps families in countries like Vanuatu start up their own beekeeping business.

Our personal favourite, however, has to be the hilariously-named Pile of Poo (from $18)—send someone this card, bearing the words “No expense spared: I got you the best crap” and you'll be helping people in developing nations grow crops with the ultimate fertiliser.

However, if that's not quite to your taste, consider buying a more traditional gift like the beautiful, ethically-made homewares and clothing, or delish FairTrade goodies such as chocolate and coffee that are available from Oxfam's online store. Naturally, money from your purchase will go toward supporting the charity and its work with these artisans.

Give The Gift Of Reading With Kiwi Christmas Books

There's something magical about books, and something even more magical about Christmas-time. The team at Kiwi Christmas Books have joined the dots so-to-speak, and are seeking donations so they can give underprivileged kids the gift of reading this festive season. There's a tonne of ways to help, from donating books, to giving your loved ones their cute gift cards (for $25, the recipient gets a lovely card, while a child in need gets a beautiful book to unwrap on Christmas morning).

Donate To Your Local City Mission

City missions are a shining light for many people at this time of the year, helping to provide those in need with the means to enjoy a special Christmas. Assist these awesome organisations in spreading some holiday cheer by making a simple donation, which could be used to pay for anything from festive food packages through to toys and other gifts to put under the tree, as well as a special lunch on the day itself (full Auckland details here, Wellington details here, and Christchurch details here).

Gift A Meal Out (And Support Hospo)

Hospo's had a rough year (understatement!), so with that in mind, why not gift the foodie in your life to one or more of the Restaurant Association's gift vouchers this Christmas, redeemable at thousands of hospitality businesses nationwide. Vouchers start from $20 (perfect for smashing back a few coffees), through to $100 (ideal for a meal somewhere spesh).

Grab A Better To Give Box

Christmas is meant to be a time for kids young and old, but sadly, many elderly people are left feeling isolated once the festive season rolls around. Better to Give are aiming to change that narrative with their beautiful gift boxes. Purchase one of these gorgeously curated packages, and know that $1 from each will go toward supporting charitable organisations that focus on combatting elderly isolation in the community via the social enterprise part of the business, The Senior Smiles Foundation. Now that's what we call Christmas spirit.

Buy A Westpac Rescue Rashie

Help do your bit to keep our beaches safer this summer by buying a Westpac Rescue Rashie. These clever shirts are available in sizes two to eight and unzip to reveal clear and concise CPR instructions for parents and caregivers, should their littlies get into trouble around the water (incredibly, only 18% of us would feel confident performing CPR if required). Plus 100% of the $25 purchase price will go directly to Westpac Rescue Choppers, who are on hand to assist with emergency situations over the festive season and beyond.

Stock Up On Stocking Stuffers From Project Jonah

Okay, so we know that sea creatures don't celebrate Christmas but the people that love them certainly do! Yes, your animal-obsessed friends and family will be stoked with a little something from Project Jonah (a voluntary organisation that helps New Zealand's marine life through rescue, action and protection programmes) in their stocking this year, from caps and clothing through to ID cards (so you know what's what when you're out on the water) and even a marine mammal medic course. Help support this awesome organisation by shopping here.

Smash These Chantal Organics x Bread & Butter Christmas Charity Cookies

Any opportunity to fill our bellies while supporting a worthy cause, and we're all in. Enter the legends at Chantal Organics and Bread & Butter, who have joined forces to bring us some delish limited-edition Christmas Charity Cookies this year, with 100% of the proceeds going to Auckland City Mission. Award-winning suppliers of sustainable and organic products, Chantal Organics have provided the ingredients, which baking royalty, Bread & Butter have then whipped into delicious, snowy white crinkle cookies. Find these babies online, or in-store at Bread & Butter Grey Lynn until 19 December. $15 per bag.

Adopt Coral On Behalf Of Your Loved Ones With Coral Gardeners

For a super cool and outta-the-box way to give back this Christmas, check out the adopt-a-coral initiative run by Coral Gardeners. Dedicated to restoring damaged reefs in the islands of Tahiti, these young eco-warriors grow and plant coral on your (or your friends and family's) behalf, to bring life back to the ocean. Choose from one of 10 'super' specimens, which the recipient will receive personalised updates about, along with their very own adoption card. Who knows, maybe one day they can even pay their piece of coral a visit.

Help Out Everybody Eats

Here at Urban List, we spend a lot of time writing about new openings and the latest and greatest foodie fads, but we also know there's a huge amount of food waste and food poverty happening, right here in New Zealand. So what better way to fire up those warm fuzzies this festive season than by helping out the incredible team at Everybody Eats, a charity that serves chef-prepared, pay-as-you-feel food that would otherwise be destined for the bin, at four locations nationwide. All they want for Christmas is to keep up the good work, and you can help them by jumping online and making a donation, giving gift cards to family and friends (every $10 spent feeds two people in need), signing up to volunteer at one of their locations and more. The bottom line? Feed bellies this Christmas, not bins.

Keep the good vibes going and take in the best Christmas lights Auckland has to offer. 

Image credit: Jackie S 

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