A Christmas to remember

Derek James finds the true spirit of Christmas at a very special event in Norwich.

How right Linda Harper is when she says it is a shame we can't bottle the spirit and the feeling of goodwill which filled the air at St Andrew's Hall in Norwich on Christmas Day.

But I know that this event will make a difference.

Friendships were formed which will help people in many ways, so please don't think Norwich Open Christmas is...just for Christmas.

This extraordinary event attracts many different people. They all had their own reasons for wanting to be there and for them this was what Christmas was all about.

It was a real privilege to be able to spend some time at the celebration with my wife Bridgette and daughter Verity. It turned out to be the highlight of our Christmas as well.

And it proved once again just how much we can learn from each other. How much we can help each other make the best of what can be a tough life for so many people.

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The old saying, a problem shared is a problem halved, was proved time and time again as people exchanged contact details and shook hands.

There is more to Open Christmas than a turkey dinner and tea, entertainment, food parcels, clothing...far more.

And while the people were enjoying their food, each other's company and some great entertainment, a small army of volunteers were beavering away making sure everything was run like clockwork.

This was the 19th Norwich Open Christmas, which is run by Colin and Linda Harper with their dedicated and loyal band of hard-working helpers.

It takes months and months of planning – reaching out to people and asking for their support.

Bernard Matthews Farms provided the 22 turkeys and much of the food was prepared on Christmas Eve at the Norwich City College Hotel School.

There is an organising committee and a core team of around 50 volunteers who help every year there are getting on for 150 volunteers involved in the day in one way or another.

From the washer-uppers to the drivers – everyone had an important role to play making sure this was a special day.

'Can you do me a favour,' said one elderly woman spending her first Christmas at the event because she had lost her husband during the year and had no other family.

'Just thank everyone. I wasn't looking forward to Christmas but I am really enjoying myself,' she said.

That sums it all up really.