St Helena’s Christmas Lunch 2020

It all started as a germ of an idea resulting from a casual conversation in a coffee shop about what we could do, as a church, to cater for those who’d be on their own at Christmas. Should we have a Christmas party either in church or the Upper Room; should it be a ‘bring and share’ meal’ should we cook a meal ourselves etc., etc.? The idea was received with enthusiasm, and when word got out, those who already had their own plans and couldn’t come, kindly offered help to those of us who would be involved. It was all systems go!!

Our hopes were dashed however, when due to the alarming rise of new cases of the virus it was announced that further measures being taken would involve the closure of churches again. Thankfully, mindful of how important the festival of Christmas is to the Christian community, the government announced a relaxation for Christmas Day Services as long as they were carried out under strict Covid measures, which of course we were all used to. It also announced that gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed in private dwellings for this one day only so we could gather in the private flat above church – the ‘Upper Room’.

We were now left with little time to put our plan into action, but with a flurry of telephone calls and enthusiasm that was overwhelming we rounded up all those who’d volunteered to help and within a few days our Upper Room was beautifully decorated, guests invited, food planned, Christmas crackers and serviettes bought, mulled wine promised, Christmas music organised, and beautifully wrapped gifts donated and in place under the tree.

On Christmas Eve, complying with all the distancing rules, a few of us gathered together and prepared the tables. By the time we’d finished the Upper Room looked absolutely beautiful!

After a lovely Christmas Day Service, (with a higher attendance than normal – but still within the Covid guidelines), a small blessing in these difficult and anxious times, we repaired to the Upper Room for celebrations to begin. Well, the delight on the faces of our guests when they saw the room was just the beginning of a wonderful, joyful and very happy afternoon.

To break the ice, one of us, whose party trick is folding serviettes into ‘water lilies’, got others having a go – and as you can see hidden talents were discovered!

Amongst the ten of us there were four different nationalities and between us we’d prepared a three-course meal with dishes representing each culture. It was a joy to behold the faces of those who’d never tasted mulled wine before – it certainly had the desired effect with everyone laughing and chattering especially after the second glass! Next surprise, apart from those of us from the UK, was the age-old tradition of pulling the Christmas crackers. That most definitely put paid to any shyness left especially when we were all wearing our Christmas hats!

We had to explain the jokes which led to a few puzzled looks, but in general they caused a lot of laughter. With everyone very relaxed the meal was a great success and enjoyed by all. The apple crumbles, Christmas cake and mince pies, all new to most of our guests were very well received and we enjoyed trying all the African dishes. Plenty of food to take home afterwards too – and we didn’t have to do any washing up. Our guests took care of that!!

It was an absolute joy and a great privilege to be part of those very special
festivities. All of us were far from home but some were there knowing they may never be able to return to theirs and to families left behind. Some had suffered great tragedy in their lives but on that one day together we experienced much joy, happiness and real fellowship and were able to put some of the sadness and loneliness aside for a few happy hours to make memories which will last a lifetime.

Christmas Day 2020 was indeed a very special day for all of us.