Today it all begins -- the 30-day spending spree during which gift after gift will be bought in hopes they will make it a happier Hanukkah, a merrier Christmas.

Fairfield has a median household income of nearly $130,000 -- modest perhaps by New Canaan standards but nearly twice the statewide average and more than three times Bridgeport's.

How much of that $130,000 will the typical Fairfield family spend on holiday gifts this year? If you said "too much," you are no doubt correct.

We know of no scientific survey that has measured what the typical Fairfield family will spend, although one could extrapolate from national data.

The median U.S. household income is about $50,000, according to census data. The average amount U.S. families will spend this season is about $500, according to a survey done for the Conference Board, an economic research group.

While "median" and "average" are not the same, one could reasonably -- perhaps conservatively -- estimate a Fairfield family with the town's median income will spend about $1,300 on holiday gifts.

But if that family spent just 10 percent less on gifts -- $130 -- and donated that amount to charities, it could make make the candles on Menoras and the lights on Christmas trees shine brighter for the less fortunate.

Can't give that much?

In Fairfield, for $10 or less per person you and your kids or grandchildren can enjoy holiday entertainment and help the less fortunate at the same time.

Tickets to the Fairfield Christmas Tree Festival at the Burr Homestead are $10 for adults and just $5 for kids and seniors. Proceeds this year benefit the St. Vincents Special Needs Services -- which serves people from infants to the elderly who have multiple developmental disabilities (Dec. 2, 3 and 4. For details, visit www.fairfieldchristmastreefestival.org).

The next weekend, the Burr Homestead will host the annual Visit To Santa's House sponsored by the Junior Women's Club of Fairfield. Tickets are just $5 ($6 at the door) and include a visit and photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday crafts for kids, face painting and more. Proceeds benefit the Junior Women's service causes, which include scholarships, the townwide spelling bee and others. (Dec. 10 and 11. For details, visit www.jwcfairfield.com).

Just have pocket change to spare? Drop it in the Salvation Army kettle at the supermarket or discount store. Those quarters, dimes, nickele -- yes, pennies, too -- add up to lodging for people left homess by fires or other disasters, plus other services.

About that $130? Shop for a holiday gift -- or a few -- at the Fairfield Women's Exchange, 332 Pequot Ave., Southport. The consignment shop features hand-made crafts, toys and other items. The shop retains 25 percent of consignment sales and uses the money for its charitable activities, which focus on services for women and children. Phone: 203-255-5138.

A few local organizations that need financial support year-round, but especially during the holidays:

Operation Hope: Operates Fairfield's shelters, supportive housing and a food pantry for the homeless and needy. To learn how to help, visit: www.operationhopect.org.

Connecticut Foodbank: The regional organization has a main warehouse in Fairfield and distributes food to needy. It's mission is to eliminate hunger. Visit: www.ctfoodbank.org.

Near and Far Aid: The an all-volunteer charitable organization in Southport distributed more than $900,000 this year to a variety of organizations that curb the effects of poverty. Its 2012 fundraising goal is close to $1 million. Visit: nearandfaraid.org.

Health charities: Some focus on research, some on services, some on both. There are too many to list, but what presents could be more valuable than the gift of hope to somebody sticken by an illness for which there is no known cure or the gift of services to someone who can't afford them?

Not a dime to spare? Those without financial means can contribute to brightening the holiday of someone less fortunate by donating their time. Call a nursing home and volunteer to read a holiday story to lonely elders or engage them in a discussion of holidays long ago. The gift of companionship at this time of year can be priceless for shut-ins and the disabled, too.

It is the season of giving, and thousands in Fairfield have the means -- either their money or their time -- to make a differce.

`Tis better to give than receive. Much better.

Do something this holiday season that will give you every right to feel good about yourself.