NOW look. I know. It’s November and I’m already talking about Christmas gift guides. I KNOW! Ok? I know.
But there’s method in my madness. Some of the beautiful little handfuls of gorgeousness below are hand made and limited edition, so if you don’t get in early, you might miss out.
Plus, I’m a parent now, I can no longer browse for gifts in a timely fashion, instead I have to wait for The Beast to be occupied for five minutes and then panic buy on the internet and I want to spare you that. I want you to have a lovely list to hand, for all your gift needs so that you don’t end up with some monstrosity you purchased at 2am. I’m doing you a favour here!
So without further ado here’s my Christmas Gift Guide. (This is my guide for adults, I’ll be doing a children’s version later on in the month. These are all items that have simply caught my eye as lovely things, this Gift Guide isn’t affiliated with any of the companies featured here, I haven’t been sent anything for free, nor paid for this post, or sponsored for it in any way.)
- First up the stocking filler to beat all stocking fillers. A Bite Size Natural Skincare Set from Bia Beauty in County Cork, featuring a cleanser, moisturiser, eye gel and skin superfood. This little set features some of Bia Beauty’s most loved skincare, in a mini set so you can try them to see do they suit your skin, before buying the larger version. Packaged in a dinky little box, this sweet set is only €12.95 and the sample pots contain enough product for about ten days – two weeks depending on how much you use. A friend bought me this set earlier in the year and I just fell in love, I think everyone in the world that I know is going to be getting one of these for Christmas, my poor postman is going to develop a hernia lugging them up my driveway.
- Next up we have some beautiful stationery from Emily at The Nest, who is bringing back her stunning Book of Days journal for 2017. Full of brand new illustrations and paintings created in her studio in the Midlands, this gorgeous diary features a full colour velvety feeling cover with the inside leaves being a heavy silky material, with miniature landscapes printed throughout. There’s even a dinky envelope on the back page where you can keep important receipts. Priced at just €20 this is a truly unique gift. As well as the Book of Days, this year for the first time The Nest is introducing lined and unlined notebooks with beautiful original artwork on the front cover, priced at just €9 each, perfect for the stationery lover in your life. Pre-orders for the Book of Days finishes mid-November so if you want one, you’ll need to move fast.
- Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some tree decorations and Letter Lane Studio based in County Limerick has created the most gorgeous wooden ornaments which would grace any tree, big or small. Made from birch plywood, the ornaments feature festive sayings like ‘Merry and Bright’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and they can be bought individually or in a bundle. They’re €4 each or three for €10.
- If you’re looking for a small but perfectly formed gift for a colleague or your child’s teacher, look no further than Tara Robinson Designs, based in County Limerick, who has this beautiful slim bookmark available for just €15, which can be personalised with a name or date or even just a favourite quote. Stylish and practical.
- Also from Tara Robinson Designs check out this gorgeous leather cuff, which can also be personalised, a really unique gift for the love of your life. Priced at just €30 it’s sure to go down a storm.
- Most of us would mainly associate Tesco with groceries, but the supermarket also has a decent homewares section where you’ll find this pretty ceramic oil burner priced at just €5.60, which let’s face it is an absolute steal. Add in a wax melt, wrap it up in some crepe paper and ribbon and you have a really gorgeous gift for under your tree. I’ve already bought one of these for myself!
- While you’re in Tesco check out the clothes section where you’ll find Touchscreen Gloves in both men’s an women’s sizes. Both fabric and leather gloves, where the thumb and index fingers have a special kind of material which allows you to use your phone or tablet without having to take off your gloves. Nifty! I’m not really sure how it works, I suspect it’s magic. Prices range from about a fiver for basic gloves to around €15 for leather ones. As far as I’m aware Tesco is no longer delivering clothes etc, so you’ll have to buy in store.
- This Christmas give a year long gift with a magazine subscription. What’s better than getting post every month that’s not a bill? Exactly, nothing. Easons has a full range of subscriptions to choose from or you can go direct to the magazine of your choice. For example at the moment National Geographic is offering a year long subscription plus a free world map and a free fleece jacket, for just €39. Not too shabby at all!
- Combine Christmas with some activism. Why not give the gift of some original artwork from a group of pro-choice artists, part of the Someone You Love exhibition, with all proceeds going to the Abortion Support Network. Browse the catalogue here. A personal favourite is this piece from Irish artist Róisín Blade Illustrator.
- Sometimes the best gift is the gift of giving, so consider a donation to charity as a gift for someone this year. You can simply donate some money in a friend or relative’s name, or you can buy a little gift/trinket with the proceeds going toward the charity. You can even purchase medical supplies to send out to disaster zones, for example, with just a few clicks. Pretty much every charity in the world has the option to give a donation as a gift, so just get Googling and find a charity that means something to you. I’d be here all night if I listed off the various charities out there (you might get some ideas from last year’s Charity Guide) but I think this year my main international donation will be going to Médecins Sans Frontiéres (Doctors Without Borders) who are currently operating in Syria and Haiti.
Honourable mention: Gifts are all very well and good but for many of us it’s the Christmas cards that make Christmas so I want to give a shout out to Lemon Squeezy, based in County Mayo, who makes the quirkiest, most beautiful hand made cards in the world. She also makes beautiful perosnalised Santa cards as well which are sure to delight your little ones. Check her out, you won’t regret it!
NOW that it’s Toy Show Day I can officially talk about Christmas!
While Christmas is the season of presents, selection boxes for breakfast, the Toy Show and an overdose of turkey, it’s also a time of year when many of us like to make a charitable donation. There are approximately eleventy billion charities in Ireland so it would be impossible to list them all but below you’ll find a selection of 50 charities ranging from international charities working in developing countries around the world, to small local charities, to individuals raising money and animal rescue groups. I suppose this is a ‘Christmas Gift Guide’ but with a difference – instead of a list of lovely things that you can buy for yourself or your friends (which I am totally on board with by the way), it’s a lovely list of charities you can donate to. Obviously I’ve left out loads and loads – unintentionally I assure you – so would love if, in the comments, you could link to any I’ve missed.
So, are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Let’s kick off with the international charities, many with a base in Ireland, working in developing countries.
You could donate to Plan Ireland, an international children’s charity working with young people living in poverty or how about donating to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) which provides emergency medical care around the world, wherever the need is greatest, including in warzones and during natural disasters.
This Christmas UNICEF is focusing on its Winter in Syria appeal, providing for children both in Syria and in the surrounding countries. The organisation has also launched its Survival Gifts campaign where donors can purchase actual lifesaving items – such as blankets, warm clothes and educational supplies – that will be shipped directly from UNICEF to help children around the world.
This Christmas you could give the gift of sight to a child in a developing country by supporting Sightsavers or you could donate to World Vision and help to give refugee children a better future by providing them with toys and special play areas.
Moving on to national charities then, you could give a virtual gift to a needy family with the St Vincent de Paul in association with Aldi, or you could donate to Barnardos’ toy appeal, a group working with vulnerable children and their families.
The Jesuit Refugee Service Ireland has launched a toy appeal for children living in Direct Provision and if you can spare some cash, the Irish Refugee Council, which works with those going through the asylum process, always welcomes donations.
Perhaps Enable Ireland is close to your heart, (if you’re in Limerick city centre on Thursday December 3 from 1-6pm, there’ll be carol singers entertaining shoppers in aid of this organisation) or you might like to donate to the Post Polio Support Group, a group which aims to create awareness and provide information on Post Polio Syndrome; support polio survivors and advocate on behalf of polio survivors.
Focus Ireland works with people who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless and has launched an Urgent Christmas Appeal to help the 5,000 people who are homeless in Ireland at any one time. If you work at a large company or if you’re the bossman/woman at a large company you might consider sponsoring a star, instead of sending Christmas cards to your clients this year.
How about donating to the RNLI, the charity which saves lives at sea, or you might consider the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, an organisation which aims to assist people who are blind or visually impaired – as well as children with autism – to achieve improved mobility and independence.
There probably isn’t a household in the country that hasn’t been affected by cancer, but you can help beat this disease by donating to the Irish Cancer Society here. As well as helping those affected by cancer and their families, the ICS also engages in cancer research. This year the society will host a Christmas Candle of Hope Ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral on Tuesday, December 15 at 6pm.
Women’s Aid helps thousands of women affected by domestic violence every year. It operates a freephone number as well as offering one-to-one support services and referrals to refuges. You can help continue this vital work by donating here.
You can support Age Action, an organisation aiming to improve the quality of life of all older people and in a similar vein you could also click here to support Alone, a voluntary organisation helping elderly people in need.
This year’s Alone Christmas campaign however reminds us that it’s not just financial support that’s important, we should also give our elderly relatives and neighbours the gift of our presence by spending time with them this festive season.
Finally then for this section, the fantastic Christmas FM is back on the airwaves again, broadcasting all your favourite festive tunes from tomorrow, November 28, with all donations going to its charity partner. This year, that’s Make a Wish Ireland, an organisation that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses.
Phew! That was a long one. Hang in there, we’re getting there. Have a little break for yourselves, get a snack, and we’ll continue on then.
On Dasher then, to local charities, of which there are gajillions dotted around the country. Here are just a few.
The Dublin Simon Community works to address and prevent homelessness in Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Meath and strives to empower people to access a home of their own. This Christmas they have several ways to contribute, from buying a Simon Gold Star to participating in a sing-a-along.
On Christmas Day when you’re plating up your dinner, consider putting aside an extra portion and dropping it off to the Hope in the Darkness group who are hoping to offer a turkey dinner to homeless people on Christmas night. The group will be setting up a table outside the GPO on O’Connell Street from about 6pm and every plate of food counts.
Over in Galway on Christmas morning, the local branch of Down Syndrome Ireland is organising a Fun Swim at Blackrock, Salthill at 11am. To register visit here or email email@example.com or telephone: 087-6448277. Sponsorship cards are available or you can donate on the day or online, here.
In Cork, you can support Cork Penny Dinners which aims to ensure that everyone who calls to the centre gets a hot nourishing midday meal. As well as donating financially you can donate non-perishable food.
The Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin provides breakfast, lunch and dinner daily to people in need and also provides a medical service, chiropody clinic, optical service and advice and information clinics. The centre also offers shower facilities and fresh underwear and clean clothes, so is always in need of financial support.
The Milford Care Centre in Limerick is a voluntary not-for-profit organisation providing specialist palliative care and Older Persons Services in the Mid West. This Christmas they’re selling Christmas cards to raise funds as well as hosting their annual Light Up A Memory Tree event on December 13 where people sponsor a light on Milford’s tree as a unique gift for a loved one. Further details are here.
Cairdeas Homeless Action is a volunteer group that offers food, clothing and bedding to homeless people in Dublin. More information here or you can contact 085-8241081.
Bumbleance caters for the sick children of Ireland from rural and urban areas who have long-term illnesses or who are seriously disabled, providing unique child-centred professional ambulance transport services to and from principal centres of care. It was established, as part of the Bee for Battens organisation, by parents Tony and Mary Heffernan who lost both of their children, Liam and Saoirse, to Batten Disease. There are loads of ways to donate here.
You can support Aoibheann’s Pink Tie – a group established by father Jimmy Norman after his daughter passed away from cancer just days before her eighth birthday – supporting families and children battling childhood cancer, by purchasing any of their merchandise here, or making an online donation here.
Ireland’s Children’s Hospice, LauraLynn, provides hospice services for children with life-limiting conditions and residential care for young adults with disabilities. There are loads of ways to help listed here or you can donate directly.
You can donate to Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland to help fund the provision of highly trained assistance dogs to children with autism and their families; also the ISPCC a children’s charity advocating for children and which runs a 24-hour Childline listening service always requires additional funding. And the Jack and Jill Foundation is a fantastic organisation that provides direct funding to families of children with brain damage, up to the age of four, and also provides end of life care to all children up to the age of four. They have a plethora of fundraising events on over Christmas or you can donate directly here.
Spun Out is Ireland’s youth information website created by young people for young people providing information to around 80,000 active readers each month, on a range of different topics including education, employment and health. You can support these efforts here. BeLonG To is the national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people, aged between 14 and 23 and you can donate and help change lives here.
Another idea to make a child’s Christmas a little brighter this year is to donate toys to your local children’s hospital. Sadly many kids have to remain in hospital over the festive period so some new toys would really help to cheer them up. Contact your local hospital to check out the protocol.
Ok, we’re in the home stretch now, keep reading you’re nearly there.
Next up are the individuals who are hosting charity events themselves around the country.
Aaron Patrick Cowming is launching a charity calendar on Sunday, December 6 between 4pm and 8pm in the Dungarvan Soccer Club. Aaron is hoping to raise €10,000 in aid of Mental Health Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association and Dungarvan Community Hospital. The calendar isn’t available online but you can message the FB page to find out how to get your hands on one.
On Christmas Day Linda Corcoran will be taking the plunge by doing a Christmas Swim in aid of A Little Lifetime Foundation, a support group for families bereaved by stillbirth or neonatal death. This charity is very important to Linda having offered her and her husband huge support in dealing with the loss of their beautiful daughter, Emma Rose. A Little Lifetime is a non-profit organisation and relies entirely on donations so every single penny helps. You can sponsor Linda here.
There is a Christmas Craft Fair planned for December 6, from noon, in St Mark’s GAA Club Tallaght, to raise funds for Hollies Hopes. Hollie Hope O’Keane was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus and attends the First Step Therapy Centre in Limerick for intensive therapy to help her walk. Through great determination and hard work she is making great progress but she needs to continue to attend the therapy and this costs upwards of €10,000 a year. Admission to the Craft Fair is free but there is a small charge to see Santa and do some crafts, with all the proceeds going to Hollies Hopes. If you have a couple of hours to spare, it would make a great family day out.
If you’re looking to ring in the New Year in style you could attend the Ava Fallon New Year’s Dinner Dance on December 31 at the Oakwood Arms Hotel in Shannon, in aid of the Ava’s Waves fund. Tickets are €50 and the night includes a drinks reception, a delicious dinner followed by music from ‘Sticky Fingers’. Ava was diagnosed at 20 months old with an inoperable brain tumour and hydrocephalus, a diagnosis which has had an impact on all areas of her development. Her family wants to raise funds for her so that she can receive additional supports in the form of therapy and equipment that will enhance her life. They also hope to send her to Brain Waves in England, a clinic that works with families on individual based therapy and exercise programmes.
Finally then, here are some details of animal charities around the country that you might like to support. Around this time of year donations to animal charities typically tend to die off but then unfortunately after Christmas there is usually an upsurge in the number of abandoned pets being left into centres. Most of these groups receive no Government funding and rely entirely on donations from the public as well as practical support such as food and bedding.
In Galway you can support the Galway SPCA. Contact Emma at the dog sanctuary on 087-2765690 and visit their Facebook page here. You can donate €4 by texting PACO to 50300.
The Clare Greyhound Project is contactable through their FB page here or by contacting Eileen on 087-2955682 or you can donate via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
In Laois you can support Cara Rescue Dogs. Further details on their Facebook Page, by calling 086-0594375 or you can donate via PayPal with email@example.com. You can also text Cara to 50300 to donate €4. If you have any bedding donations they can be left into Vet Care Portlaoise, or PetMania Portlaoise or PetMania in Tullamore.
The Irish Blue Cross is an animal charity assisting pet owners by offering low cost services such as vaccinations, check ups and surgeries to those who cannot afford private vet fees. It also runs a mobile clinic which provides more than 18,000 treatments a year around Dublin.
If you’ve got this far, congratulations! You did it! That was a long read but hopefully it will give you some ideas for where to donate this Christmas. Remember as well that often practical support such as volunteering your time or warm clothing/bedding is just as important as financial donations.
If you prefer to donate by text, check out Like Charity, which features a list of hundreds of Irish charities who all accept text donations. It couldn’t be simpler to give a few bob, have a goo here.
Finally then – I mean it this time – it’s important to note that by rights the vast majority of these charities shouldn’t have to exist. These services and supports should be fully Government funded without any need for charitable donations. No individual or family should be left in limbo, or should have to rely on charity, when it comes to their basic needs and their basic rights. That’s worth bearing in mind in the run up to next year’s General Election. When the politicians come a-knocking for GE 2016, ask them where they stand on the provision of services such as those listed above and ask them what they intend to do about this abysmal and very obvious gap. Our Government can and must do more.