Santa's got a big job. If you want to help him share Christmas love and cheer, become a secret Santa. This form of service is great fun for the whole family. The seven tips listed below will help you be successful, no beard needed.

Choose your target

Find someone who is in need of some extra love this Christmas. It could be a neighbor, a widow or elderly person living alone, a family who's just getting by or even a stranger. Taking the time to talk about who you want to serve and what you can offer them will make the project more meaningful.

Plan your attack

Do you want to do a one-time delivery, or take on the whole 12 days of Christmas? Think about how to make your delivery. Is day or night better? You don't want to leave gifts unattended on a porch while people are at work, but you don't want to be noticed. What's the weather like? Wet wrapping paper doesn't make a good impression, and ice could thwart a quick getaway. Making a detailed plan will help your chances of succeeding.

Review your plan

Kids get very excited about playing Santa, so make sure each child has a part. Smaller children can help wrap and prep gifts, then be lookouts during the operation. Older children can make deliveries and run fast during the getaway. If you need to do something extra-tricky, like put up decorations inside a home, make sure you've checked with the appropriate people.

Stealth mode

Now it's time to execute your perfect secret Santa plan. Remind the children to be quiet, drive slowly and park a little distance from your target, particularly if your intended recipients might know your car. Be aware of house and street lights, and don't look too suspicious. I wouldn't advise wearing masks or all black. You wouldn't want helpful neighbors to alert the authorities. If you are dropping off goodies for several days in a row, switch up delivery times, vehicles and delivery elves. Keep your secret status for as long as possible.

Abort mission!

What if the door opens right as you are dropping the gifts? What if you drop something in the snow or get yelled at by neighbors? If you need to abort your mission, don't panic. Regroup and make a plan B. If you get caught in the act try singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and smiling. Or say, "We were just coming by to say 'hi' and noticed these gifts on your porch." Express your love and laugh about it later.

Celebrate success

When you and your family are done with your mission, be sure to talk about what went well. If your kids are like mine, they'll be happy and energized after doing such a fun form of service. Plan a special treat, like hot cocoa and popcorn, and talk about the details of your secret Santa delivery. Serving others makes you happy in a way other things can't.

For ultimate holiday joy, repeat

If your family, like mine, enjoys playing secret Santa each holiday season, make it a tradition. You might like it so much that you add more people to your target list. Christmas takes on new meaning and depth as you find ways to serve others, just like the Savior of the World did during his life on earth.

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