'You don't know what this means': People living alone treated to Christmas lunch together in Beccles

Bishop Michael Harrison with volunteers on Christmas morning getting the trimmings ready for lunch Credit: Bishop Michael Harrison

Christmas Day can be a difficult time for many people, especially those living alone or unable to get to family.

However, for 70 people in Suffolk, the fear of being alone for the holidays was transformed into a day of festive cheer, a lunch with all the trimmings, and company.

Dozens of people of all ages attended the annual event in Beccles, run by volunteers. It's held at St Luke's Church on Rigbourne Hill Lane and is free for attendees.

Bishop Michael Harrison was there to show his support. He says "it's been running for the past few years, it's now an established event.

He added that there are a variety of reasons why someone might come along.

"While Christmas is so often a time for community, family and celebrating relationships, Christmas Day in particular is one of those times when the isolated, the bereaved, and the alone can feel especially separated from human community.

"Others are unwell, or tired, or overwhelmed, for example economically, and are looking for support- sometimes emotionally or mentally.

"It means a lot to people and there are lots of comments of appreciation, like "you are angels" and "you don't know what this means."

Bishop Michael Harrison pictured with volunteers.

Cooking starts from around 8am for a midday kick off, with volunteers working the day before too to make sure the shopping list is complete and the tables are laid in festive style.

The Venerable Rich Henderson, Archdeacon of Suffolk, said: “Week in week out, a team of volunteers work hard in meeting the needs of others across Beccles and the surrounding area. 

“The annual highlight of the commitment and dedication of the team is Christmas Day lunch, where all gather for food, fellowship, and fun. Thank you to all who make this possible.”

 Phil Cudmore, Associate Priest for Beccles with Worlingham, North Cove & Barnby, said: "Hospitality is a key value in Beccles Parish so there has been an open invitation for anyone to come on the day.

"Diners included people we have met through our Parish Pantry pop up shop or the Food Bank, some who come along to our weekly lunch club, and some from our church communities."

The lunch is funded by organisations in local community. Financial aid was given from Beccles Lions and the Beccles Townlands Charity.

Mr Cudmore says it's thanks to the volunteers though too that this is possible.

"They shop, prepare the food, cook, clear tables, wash up, make table decorations, and pack teas, not to mention ferrying people to St Luke's and home again."

After the meal, the group sings Christmas songs with more refreshments. Then each diner takes home a packed dinner with sandwiches, Christmas cake, a fruit pie, a piece of fruit and a little gift.

For those who can't get to the event, volunteers were also on hand to deliver 10 meals into the community on Christmas Day.