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Make Christmas a feast of giving, not just giving a feast

PUBLISHED: 08:51 11 December 2017

Professor Catherine Waddams, a Church of England Licensed Reader at St George’s Church, Colegate, Norwich.

Professor Catherine Waddams, a Church of England Licensed Reader at St George’s Church, Colegate, Norwich.

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Let’s not forget that Christmas is a time for giving to those in need, says Professor Catherine Waddams.

‘Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat...’

The tradition of feasting at this time of year goes back well beyond Christianity. Feasting and light are ways of getting through this darkest part of the year, when survival must have been threatened by bad weather and lack of working light. And we still feast - often eating too much and regretting it afterwards – it’s not only the geese (and turkeys) which get fat. Many of us will be eating and drinking too much, with resolutions to eat/drink less and lose weight will be common in the New Year. But what about the other part of the rhyme? Most of us are less likely to ‘over-indulge’ in our charitable giving than we are in eating and drinking. But as the verse reminds us, it’s also traditional at Christmas to remember those who struggle to get by. We see more and more people in difficulty on our streets, just as Charles Dickens did 174 years ago in Victorian London. In his ‘Christmas Carol’, which has been continuously in print since then, he contrasted the selfish and grumpy Scrooge with the Cratchit family, who experienced health issues and poverty but still cheerfully counted and shared the few blessings which they had.

Whether we respond to those holding out their hats on the street or prefer to plan our giving less spontaneously, Christmas is coming, and it’s a good time to be generous to those who need our help. This cold dark time of the year poses particular challenges for those struggling to get by, on the streets or in their homes. Volunteers in Norfolk serve Christmas lunch to many of the homeless and lonely in St Andrew’s Hall in Norwich, in church halls, and other places, or invite those who might otherwise be alone to share their Christmas meal; and temporary accommodation is often made available over the holiday period. As we plan our own Christmas catering and spending, let’s not forget the many who need our help, not only at Christmas but also in the New Year.

‘If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do

If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you.’

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