Advent Firesiders

Community Christmas (2019)

Last Christmas my wife and I assisted at a Christmas Day lunch for the lonely which turned out to be a great success. It was our admission that the nuclear family Christmas wasn't working for us and certainly wasn't working for the lunch guests.

My mind went back to my childhood when Christmas Day was always the same. We attended Midnight Mass and itched for presents which we could not have until after morning Mass. Then we rifled our pillow cases of selection boxes and small gifts. Then came the lunch of chicken, stuffing, sprouts and roast potatoes to the accompaniment of parental bickering because my dad had, as always, come back late from the pub. Then the Queen and the visit of my mother's parents for tea, spoiled because they would not talk to my dad. Then Morecambe and Wise, or was it the Black and White Minstrel Show. My only comfort was that precisely the same thing was happening in millions of other households. While some people look back with nostalgia to two-channel television and the uniformity which supposedly acted as glue in our national life, it is that very uniformity, based round the fundamentally private nuclear family - a phenomenon, incidentally, which  resulted from rising prosperity after the Second World War - which has created so many lonely people.

The food was excellent at our Christmas Lunch but what I really valued was the financial support from the community, the enjoyment of our guests and the songs and prayers that went with it. I don't suppose anybody would have minded much if we had eaten shepherd’s pie instead of turkey.