ANTIGONISH — A delicious holiday tradition will continue on Dec. 25 at St. James United Church hall.
The menu for the annual Christmas day community dinner – scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. – not only includes the familiar turkey and its trimmings, but also plenty of fellowship to help nourish the spirit.
“It is open to everyone,” Brenda Gould, one of the organizers for a second year, told The Journal.
As it has been since its launch more than a decade ago, the celebration welcomes not only those who may not have the means to cook such a meal, but also those who may be alone on Christmas Day; for example, far away from family and friends, or new to the Antigonish area.
Keeping in mind that spending time together and sharing the warmth of the season is as important as taking that delicious bite out of those fluffy potatoes or piece of apple pie, live entertainment – once again – will be a staple of the gathering.
Memories are shared, while new ones are created.
“I am flying by the seat of my pants,” Gould quipped of bringing everything together.
Of course, as usual, reaching that goal is made much easier by those who make donations – both monetary and culinary – along with the helping hand volunteers provides with everything from food preparation to clean-up.
An example of the community effort involved, Sodexo – the food service company on the STFX campus – supplies and cooks the turkeys, dressing and gravy for the meal.
“It is heartwarming – the spirit of giving,” Gould offered of those who contribute to the effort.
She described the generosity of people in Antigonish as “eye-opening.”
The delicious tradition – one that launched in 2009 – is a creation of the mother-daughter duo of Betty and Carolyn Webber. Because their family gathered for Christmas dinner on Boxing Day, they were free on Christmas day and they decided to put together the first gathering – one centered on the knowledge that many people were alone on that special day.
With help from several volunteers, the Webbers fed 60 or so people, while fashioning – more broadly – an event that has become about more than just a meal; it is a celebration of the closeness of the Antigonish community.
“It is an amazing experience,” Gould said.
Noting that there were 187 meals served in 2022, organizers are preparing to provide approximately 200 meals this year.
Along with those who drop by to sit down and enjoy the holiday fare in the finely adorned St. James United Church hall, there is a takeout option.
“We barely have to buy anything,” she said, noting smaller purchases – such as milk and cream for tea and coffee – along with juices, may not be covered by donations.
Any leftovers and extra items will be put to use at the weekly hot meal program that also takes place at St. James.
“There is always extra,” she noted.
Although it is a “long, busy day,” Gould said having “so many people helping” makes the effort much easier.
“It is all worth it.”