Instead of writing on “spiritual” stuff this weekend, with our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve holidays fast approaching, I thought I’d give you a few holiday tips & hacks instead.

Tips and reminders to make our holidays healthier, happier, simpler. Just for us single Christians.

I looked for some feeder articles to start my research and couldn’t find any (there were only “regular” holiday hacks and dating hacks, but none for us Christian singles).

So I made up a bunch, based on what I’ve participated in and my creative imagination.

Remember: you can do all of these with your single Christian buddies!

Single parents: you can do any or all of these with your children. Don’t wait till your off weekend to go have fun with your friends; bring your family alongside!

Introverts: You get a free pass out of too many group activities if you’re more of an introvert. Then you would actually be okay doing several of these suggestions alone or with one close friend. Just don’t isolate and insulate yourself from the joy and laughter of others. No one is an island.

Extroverts: Don’t overwhelm your introverted buddies. But don’t forget to invite and include them so they still feel like part of the human race. If they say they want to do something at their place and they’re not used to it, offer to help but not take over.

To Everybody: Don’t forget to keep your appointments (AKA Quiet Times) with the Lord. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, activities, and breakneck pace of the holidays. He is your joy and your strength, not a holiday!

Categories covered: attitude adjustment, fellowship, physical health, food & meals, time management, ministry & sharing the gospel.

I identified a few ideas in each category in hopes that you will find something you haven’t done that you could incorporate into your life this season. These are not in order of importance.

Here goes!

#1: Don’t start focusing on couples around you and comparing them with your forlorn single status. Don’t fixate on how much you wish you had a special someone to share the festivities with. That will make you glum and not a fun person to be around. You don’t want that negative attention. Get busy loving and serving and creating fun for yourself and everyone around you. Let the glow of joy, love, and laughter make you more attractive. You don’t know who is watching. Or who the Lord will bring into your life next week, next month, next year to become your special someone by this time next year. Your glow may spark their interest. You may as well have holiday fun now!

#2. Don’t think you have to be coupled up to enjoy the best this season—and our God—has to offer. God has given us all things richly for us to enjoy, 1 Timothy 6:17b. Enjoy life now. Get together with some of your ministry partners, co-workers, or friends and start planning something fun for the holidays.

#3. Do try something new this season that you’ve never done before. Go somewhere new. Start a new tradition. Taste something different. Meet some new people. Watch a new holiday movie or play (other than your children’s school play!). Make a new recipe for a party. Have the party at your house. Go see holiday lights at a place you’ve never been to, even if you have to go out of town. Visit a Christmas service at another church. Even better: visit a Christmas service at a church of a different ethnicity. Make this holiday an adventure!

#4. Do all your shopping ahead of time (think: before Thanksgiving!) by shopping throughout the year or online. Then you can enjoy the rest of the holidays better. I like to finalize my Christmas shopping during Thanksgiving week when all the hordes are at the grocery stores buying supplies for Thanksgiving. Then I can catch up on grocery shopping the Saturday after Thanksgiving while the same hordes are Black Friday shopping. “Moving in the opposite spirit” works really well for holiday shopping, haha!

#5. If you’re a Black Friday Rebel like me, save yourself being trampled on and ending up in one of those pathetic online phone videos showing your frenzied face shoving through a swirling mob. Use the Thanksgiving weekend to decorate for Christmas (if you decorate for Christmas). Put on some coffee, hot mulled apple cider, tea bags, finger foods, and Christmas music, and invite friends to drop in for a respite from their frenzied shopping. They could even help you decorate. Or you could have a gift-wrapping party! This is the kind of thing that could become an annual holiday tradition.

#6. Another option if you are a Black Friday Rebel: serving at a ministry that continues operating into the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend. One of my all-time favorite holiday activities is to serve at an Operation Christmas Child processing center. This always helps me have an official start to the holidays by extending my season of gratitude for what thousands of families in my area are doing to benefit poor children in third world countries. It always helps me be grateful for what I have and that I’m privileged to serve. OCC is sponsored by the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, whose president and CEO is Franklin Graham, the son of Dr. Billy Graham. For more information and to join the joy, click here:

#7. If you are hostessing a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner in your home, bless someone who lives alone, is a widow/er with no nearby family, someone newly divorced, any college or foreign exchange student or military personnel who weren’t able to fly home for the holidays. They’ll bless you for it.

#8. If you’re not used to doing this, and especially if the Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas celebration is at your house, start official festivities with a prayer and reading an appropriate scripture. At Thanksgiving, go around the room and have each person share what they are thankful for this year. The Christmas gifts can wait another 20 minutes.

#9. If you are not the hostess type, but you would like to have a holiday gathering at your apartment or house, good for you (especially if you’re a guy)! That’s an awesome idea. Enlist the help of a few friends, pick a date and maybe even a theme. If your church doesn’t have a singles group, you might be able to start one by having the party at the church (get permission first, of course). You can watch a classic Christmas movie, play games, and/or share holiday memories. Make sure it’s a potluck so you don’t end up doing all the cooking. Take a chance and let your inner circle in. You’ll be blessed more than you realize!

#10. If you’ve never served a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to the homeless, or it’s been a few years, go volunteer through your church, homeless shelter, or other community group. Take your single Christian friends. Be prepared to minister to everyone around you, whether client or colleague. You’ll be blessed!

#11. Don’t spend all your holiday time shopping and being consumed with giving and getting gifts. Take time to sit quietly and meditate on what you’re thankful for this entire holiday season, not just Thanksgiving.

#12. Pay for the meal of the car behind you in the drive-through. Even better: Give the drive-through worker a holiday tract or invitation to a holiday service at your church to give to the car behind you.

#13. A fun and simple way to spend time with friends eating and decorating: make, with your friends, dozens of plain, unfrosted sugar cookies. Or have your friends each bring 2 dozen cookies. Have each participant sign up to bring something different to decorate cookies. Also have friends bring the hot holiday drinks so you don’t get stuck buying everything. Spend a few hours decorating (and of course, eating!) cookies, talking, laughing, and sipping hot drinks. Have enough left for each person to take home a dozen.

#14. Secretly, anonymously bless someone who is financially challenged this season with a gift card just to say thank you and God bless you. If you and your single buddies pitch in together, this could be a substantial gift for a family who’s having a hard time financially.

#15. You & your single Christian friends treat yourselves to a fancy, expensive restaurant or a ball. Make reservations now, they fill up quickly!

#16. Instead of just giving gifts, make up and give away coupons for acts and gifts of love: tasks around the house, a hug or an evening of a listening ear, a weekend of pet-sitting, or a homemade dinner or food item like a batch of cookies, a gourmet salad, your country’s ethnic specialty that they love, or your famous mac & cheese.

#17. If you love to bake and you haven’t been to a cookie exchange for awhile, maybe it’s time you suggested or even host one! For those of you have never heard of a cookie exchange, this is what you do: you confirm a specific number of people who will participate. Each person signs up to make from scratch and bring a specific kind of cookie, a dozen for each person who will participate. For instance, if you have 8 people participating including yourself, each person makes and brings 8 dozen (96) cookies. That leaves a dozen available for samples. Each participant gets a dozen of everyone else’s cookies. I’ve done these before and it’s fabulous fun and an easy way to get several dozen different cookies to serve at future holiday functions! (My most recent favorite cookies to make are lavender lemon bars, red velvet chocolate kiss cookies, white chocolate-dipped oatmeal cookies using dried cranberries, slivered almonds or coarsely chopped macadamia nuts and without cinnamony spices, classic fudge brownies, toffee bars, and orange spice bars! Don’t rule out confections like rice crispy or corn frosted flake treats, popcorn balls, tarts, cake pops, or bacon chocolate bark sprinkled with coarsely ground Himalayan pink salt. Now I’m making myself hungry!)

#18. There is so much to do that it’s easy to get run down and tired from poor self-care. Be sure to stay on a regular routine of drinking enough good (alkaline) water, exercising, and getting enough sleep during the holidays. It’s your responsibility to keep your mental health healthy. It’s okay to set boundaries and not to accept every invitation you’re given. You don’t want to miss out on the best of the season because your body became run down and vulnerable to illness and you got sick!

#19. If you have never been caroling, now’s the time to try it. Find someone who can play guitar and pick out several Christmas songs. Print out the lyrics. Select some neighbors, friends and church members to sing to who are shut-in due to medical reasons. Maybe you will like caroling so much that you will contact a hospital or some nursing homes in your area ahead of time to slowly stroll through the facility singing Christmas carols after dinner, when they typically have visitors or are getting ready for bed. I love caroling. (I sang Christmas carols for so many years in the Baptist church that I could probably sing you all four stanzas of a carol in July!)

#20. If you eat out a lot or plan to travel or go to several secular gatherings, and you’re not used to doing so, buy a packet of holiday tracts and leave your tips in them. Hand them out to your server, valet, the maitre-d, the hotel maid, and anyone else who provides a service who usually gets a tip. Make it your goal to have none left by Christmas Eve.

#21. If you’re culinary-challenged and usually feed yourself by way of your friends Mr. Carry Out and Ms. Microwave, here’s a thought: look up some really easy recipes (5 ingredients or less) to actually cook or bake (look up how easy it is to make a dump cake!). Live a little! Easy hacks make staples amazing. We’re talking salads (like mine; see the next idea below), soups (eg. add a teaspoon of cumin seed, a teaspoon of garlic, and a half teaspoon of curry to two 32-oz. boxes of pre-made butternut squash soup), mashed potatoes (eg. whip 16 ounces of sour cream per 6-8 servings of instant mashed potatoes), mac & cheese (shred in a few ounces of BBQ ribs or chicken from your favorite local eatery), or green bean casserole (I love to add a small can/jar, drained, of mushroom pieces and about a cup of frozen pearl onions or chopped, crispy-fried bacon with the grease patted out with a paper towel)! Ask for a foodie friend’s help and double the fun! I also suggest small hacks to add a bit of foodie joy to your season. Easy hacks to try:

—Put some peppermint canes into a resealable bag and pound the candy gently with a hammer to make fresh peppermint sprinkles for hot chocolate, coffee, or cake/cookie decorating. Or use flavored gourmet marshmallows!

—Ground a teaspoon of lavender per cup of sugar or sugar substitute in a blender to make an aromatic, yummy sugar to use with your tea, if you’re a tea drinker. You can even package them into pretty containers to give as gifts or thank yous for the tea drinkers in your life!

—Add dried cranberries to your favorite meat salad finger sandwiches (tuna, ham, chicken) and hold back on the relish for that special gourmet yum at the next holiday gathering.

—Festive holiday fruit skewers: get fruit like grapes, mandarin or fresh orange slices, cherries, apples or Asian pears thinly sliced, cored strawberries, bananas sliced a bit thicker (about a half inch)—basically anything that’s not too watery like melon—and stick them on those bamboo skewers. Pat them dry. Melt a regular package of white chocolate following the microwave directions on the package in a wide-mouthed bowl. Dip half of each 5 to 10 inch fruited skewer the long way so each piece of fruit gets half a coating. Sprinkle with holiday sprinkles and you’ll look fancy. And your gluten-free friends will thank you for bringing something they can enjoy.

—If you like to make your own french toast, add a 2-to-1 ratio of cinnamon and nutmeg to the powdered sugar you sprinkle on afterwards (not the egg batter), or to the sugar you roll your Snickerdoodle cookies in.

#22. Easy and impressive holiday salad hack! Get a large round charger or plate (no smaller than 14 inches diameter). Glass or holiday colors (not green) work best. Strew a bag of spinach or arugula around the plate so it looks like a puffy wreath (leave a round space in the middle). Sprinkle candied pecans, either pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, and feta cheese on your green wreath. Drizzle raspberry vinaigrette dressing, serve with small tongs, and voila! It’s done, and you will look like a gourmet chef!

#23. If you don’t have anyone to ship a care package to, look for churches in your area who are sending care packages to college students or military personnel. Plan to bring needed items and invite family and friends to share in the giving. Arrive early and stay late. Somebody on the receiving end is going to rejoice and feel loved that you and your crew cared enough to pack them a box. And don’t get chintzy stuff. Get them the good stuff!

#24. Maybe sometime this holiday season, you can have a “birthday party for Jesus” and bring Him yourselves; have a leisurely time of worship and praise. Encourage one another to love and good works by sharing scriptures, what the Lord did in your lives this year, and one area you’re really going to cooperate with the Lord about to further your transformation in Christ next year.

#25. And don’t forget to sing to Jesus in worship, adoration, and gratitude when you are alone in your own space this holiday. After all, Jesus is the Reason for the Whole Season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years)!

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