An Alternative Christmas


Many years ago I had a friend who ran a catering company. He and I came up with a nice idea; to hire his caterers for a Christmas meal one week before Christmas. The plan was to have them come in, set up a table, decorate it, cook and take everything away after. The dinner would be for all those of our friends who could not enjoy Christmas Day themselves, because they’d be paying visits to care homes or elderly relatives, acting as carers or having to work.

BRkzJXHCUAAJS--It proved a huge success, and expanded to include around 30 people each year. We added a piano for a carol service and it became a Christmas fixture. With the death of my business partner we discontinued it. Then one Christmas we found that we had now joined the ranks of those who travelled to look after others on Christmas Day – our Christmas dinner was starting to consist of a sandwich in a roadside cafe on the way to or from elders – so two years ago we revived the tradition. This time we hired a restaurant as the catering company was defunct, and it’s back up to twenty friends already. As the onus is upon us to care for those in poorer health, this is a way of giving thanks and preparing for the season ahead.


The venues require a way that we can change seating three times in the course of the dinner so that we all get to share conversation with each other, and involves an unfeasibly complicated gift-exchange so that everyone gets the something they want.

We try to vary the guests a bit so that we can catch up with people we haven’t seen for a while, and as we’ve already had our first (short) snowfall this year we’re hoping that some atmospheric weather will be provided. In central London it’s still possible to get booking for large numbers at the moment as so many people head out of town.


4 comments on “An Alternative Christmas”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    That’s a lovely idea. It means you see the people you need to when it’s important to them (and you, presumably) and also the people with whom you enjoy celebrating. Those are two different things. Our Bookcrossing group has just finalised its plans. We’re having a potluck dinner in a room a local credit union makes available, so that’s free and there’s kitchen facilities. We’re having it the second week of January when everyone is a little down and all the family stuff is over.

  2. Vivienne says:

    Perfect. A jolly party that can never be a disappointing Christmas. Cheers as a not so tiny Tim might say.

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    A delicious idea!

    A quarter century ago I gathered (and again for a few years) with a number of my friends for an exile Christmas, those that could not/would not return to the family home. Circumstance has worked something similar this year, and for an earlier affair. For I am marrying on the 21st. The registry office only had a time slot free then, and at 3.30, else wait for another month or two. We went across the square for lunch, to a nice little place we hadn’t visited before. Left later having then been almost begged to have a wedding meal there. They took the Christmas menu and slashed it in price for the surety of many (well, a dozen or so) people as the booker (I believe) could then show she had filled every slot during the festival period. This means we have the meal first, speeches, and pootle on over the square to marry. Then straight afterwards zoom off leaving the family to sweep up the kids, leaving us to spend a good chunk of the day just us.

    I digress terribly, but to the point that it will be an early Christmas meal wherein all the relatives can be seen to, whilst then gaining actual-Christmas without.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Best wishes, Alan, for the 21st. Who says the speeches, etc. have to come last? The only caution is that the principals had better not be under the influence when it comes the time or the registry office people may refuse to officiate. Otherwise, a lovely day will be had by all.

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