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  • Writer's pictureBen Slater

Lessons from the Christmas I never had - Part 2

His smile disappeared.

Then he remembered himself and addressed me in a low polite tone:

"We have had many new blessings this Christmas Day.

Many new wonders that my family would think were tall tales had I not taken many photos on my phone.

Giant chickens, tiny cabbages, wrapped meat, stuffed meat, pudding from Yorkshire that is not a pudding and bread that is not bread but a sauce."

He paused, choosing his words carefully.

"But why are you giving me a bowl of coal?"

We'll come back to that. Let's rewind.

We had decided to do a community Christmas dinner in the church hall after the church service.

Somewhere for people to come and join in with others if Christmas Day felt like too much of a burden. Sometimes those burdens can be about finance, sometimes they can be about busyness and sometimes they can be about loneliness.

We had expected 10.

40 came.

15 countries were represented.

Colourful, traditional and homemade costumes were worn.

Crackers were eyed suspiciously and then made people jump as they banged.

Paper hats were carefully put over perfectly coiffured hair and head dresses.

The food was served. (We had enough food, thankfully.)

And then the speeches started.

One by one, people stood to thank the cooks, to thank us for the blessing of a warm and food-filled table. To bless us on behalf of their families far away who would be happy to know that they were sharing at a full table today. To thank us for considering them family on this special day.

And then people stayed. They chatted, shared stories, shared games, shared photos, shared compliments about traditional dress. Smartly dressed children played with the toys we had brought. (If you want my advice, always bring Lego and Hot Wheels cars.)

With the extra cooking, hospitality and clearing up, our Christmas Day disappeared. Presents stayed unwrapped at home. Christmas cake stood on the side unsliced. Christmas specials stayed unwatched.

It was the Christmas we never had.

And yet it is a Christmas that I'll never forget.

Because I'll never take Christmas for granted again.

And the bowl of coal?

A bowl of Christmas pudding.

Which with brandy cream, became his favourite food ever.

The broad smile returned.

And after a third helping.

He wanted everyone to know the blessing of his new favourite food.

And stood to make a speech.

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