We speak to some of the Salvos around the nation hosting community Christmas Day lunches.
Prawns for entrée, with main course options including turkey, chicken and ham, or maybe lamb, plus roast vegetables and assorted salads. As for dessert—how does a choice of plum pudding, trifle, pavlova, fruit salad, ice-cream or custard sound?
Menus for Christmas Day lunch are being finalised at Salvation Army corps (churches) around the nation.
While the food is no doubt delicious, that’s not the main reason thousands of people are so happy to be there to share in the festive meal.
“It’s because they feel loved,” says Lincoln Stevens, Salvo officer (minister) at Inala in Brisbane’s south-west.
“And it’s a joyous time. Many people would otherwise be alone and it’s a highlight for them to share Christmas Day with others, enjoy a beautiful meal served by smiling people, hear a short message about Jesus, the reason for the season, and of course have a visit from Santa.”
It’s a hectic time from Christmas Eve onwards for the 30 or so volunteers as they set up and decorate tables at the church and prepare piles of vegetables ready to roast with the chickens on Christmas morning.
“Volunteers are from our church, other churches and the community, as well as corporate volunteers who ask to come back and help out year after year,” Lincoln says.
“They love the atmosphere and really feel a sense of doing something good for other people. They feel they are giving back to their community and to people who are less fortunate.”
Ben and Rachel Knight, Salvation Army officers at Batemans Bay (NSW), started liaising with local businesses in October to prepare for their Christmas Day lunch. Catering for around 100 guests, this is the eighth year the lunch has been held.
“We receive sponsorship from many local businesses in the form of donated food—including 15 kg of prawns for our entrée—and source decorations and Christmas trees from our local Kmart,” Rachel says.
“We also make sure every person gets a gift on Christmas Day.”
Lloyd Stanimirovic and his team from The Salvation Army Northside Hornsby Gateway Corps (NSW) have been preparing for months. With around 140 registered guests, there’s a lot to organise—and it’s even more of a challenge when the numbers can change almost while they’re carving the ham and turkey.
We want to bring ‘the joy of Christmas’ to our guests and it is a great opportunity and privilege for us to serve our community because they matter to God and they matter to us.
Christmas lunch at Inala Corps (church) in Queensland
“We’ve been taking down numbers for those attending so that catering can be planned, but there’s always a number of people who don’t let us know in advance,” he says. “But we cater for them.”
Volunteers are the linchpin of these community Christmas festivities. Salvo officer Angela Czoban says 20 dedicated volunteers make the day run smoothly at The Salvation Army Belconnen Corps (ACT).
“We have lists for every imaginable requirement,” Angela smiles. “Our volunteers are ‘allocated’ jobs, from purchasing food, meal prep, cooking, serving, clearing up, to set-up and décor.
“Our Christmas lunch will be an international event, with folk from Sierra Leone, India, Nigeria and other countries attending, and this makes it especially wonderful.
“We want to bring ‘the joy of Christmas’ to our guests and it is a great opportunity and privilege for us to serve our community because they matter to God and they matter to us.”
Rachel says the 25 volunteers who bring the Christmas spirit to the 100 guests at Batemans Bay Salvation Army always have a great time.
“We develop such camaraderie on the day as we serve; seeing smiles and experiencing the gratitude of those who come for lunch is a gift in itself for each of our volunteers,” she says.
“Our guests love the carols, love the food, and love the leftovers they can take home. Those who come are considered our family.”
Finding the festive spirit
Not everyone looks forward to Christmas. For many in our community, the festive season can be lonely, stressful and isolated.
If you find Christmas far from merry, it’s important to recognise these negative feelings and try to plan ways to make it a happier time.
If you are going to be alone on Christmas Day, try to organise some positive activities. Human contact is important, so think about celebrating the day with others by attending a church service or joining a community Christmas lunch run by organisations such as The Salvation Army. Or you could consider taking part in one of these lunches from a different perspective and volunteer your time to make the day a joyful experience for others.
If someone invites you to Christmas lunch or to spend some of the day with them, accept their invitation—even if you feel shy or nervous about it. If your friends and relatives are interstate or overseas, connect with them online.
If you are facing hardship, ask for help. Organisations, including the Salvos, have many services for those who need help, from food hampers and gift assistance to Christmas lunch events and, of course, long-term support. If you, or someone you know, needs support, reach out.
For more information, visit salvos.org.au/christmas/need-help-this-christmas/food-hamper-and-gift-assistance