In the years since, the tradition has continued to grow as influencers and everyday people have made The Giving Manger part of their Christmas celebrations and shared about its impact. Fans include celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife Jools Oliver, who posted about her family’s tradition on Instagram.
“Being kind is THE only thing that matters and we hope they carry this tradition through to their little families too,” Jools Oliver wrote.
Kalberer said she’s moved by the acts of kindness she sees kids doing each year.
They aren’t necessarily big things, she said. The Giving Manger website includes ideas like sharing toys, cleaning bedrooms or, for older children, visiting an elderly neighbor. And it doesn’t matter how many pieces of straw end up in the manger for baby Jesus’ bed — “his love doesn’t change,” she said.
She remembers her own son, now nearly 15, insisting on bringing boxes of candy canes to the airport as they traveled to visit family one Christmas years ago. While she stressed over tickets and luggage and making it to their flight on time, he handed out the candy canes to people working at the airport to let them know their work was appreciated.
“I was out of my mind that he thought that extra step of who really needed a candy cane, and we had people at the Delta desk crying,” she said.
The sisters may have been surprised by the success of The Giving Manger, but, as a mom, Kalberer said she understands why it has resonated with families and how acts of kindness get to the heart of the story of Jesus’ birth, which Christians celebrate at Christmastime.
The message of Christmas is peace and joy, she said.
“It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re doing something for somebody else,” she said. “It’s just hard to not feel that peace and joy and all the things we’re trying to celebrate.”
This article originally appeared here.