In Ireland, one-third of people over the age of 65 live alone – or 399,815 people – according to the 2016 Census. Halo Café decided to bring people in Celbridge together on Christmas day 2019. Halo Café is located in unit 1 Maynooth Road, Celbridge, Co.Kildare. It sells scones, sandwiches and a variety of hot and cold beverages, as well as operating a catering business for all occasions. However, as well as cooking and selling food over this festive season, Halo Café offered to go the extra mile for locals in need.
Matt and Ellie Ryals from the Bridge Church in Celbridge asked Matthew and Clare Black from Halo Cafe if they could use their kitchens to create Christmas dinner for the people of Celbridge who were going to be alone. Instead of just allowing the Bridge Church to borrow their kitchens, Matthew and Clare Black from Halo Café offered to cook Christmas dinner and help organise the event. The staff at Halo Café even volunteered to help cook and serve the guests during the event.
The Christmas dinner was advertised on the Celbridge Information Facebook group and the event spread through word of mouth. Locals shared it online and told their friends and neighbours about it. A number of people contributed food and money to the event. Some even offered to drive guests to the event. The turkey for the Christmas dinner was donated by some kind locals and some of Halo Café’s suppliers donated food too. St.Vincent De Paul and The Mill Community Centre got on board with the event too.
A total of seventy local people attended the event. Matt and Ellie Ryals and the staff from Halo Café made a big effort to help the guests feel welcome. There was a variety of food available for the guests and the venue was decorated with tablecloths with candles on the tables. The guests had the opportunity to enjoy a glass of mulled wine before the festivities began.
This wasn’t just your average dinner; there was a starter, main course and dessert. It began with vegetable soup and brown bread. Turkey and ham with stuffing and vegetables followed. There was a huge variety of desserts to finish: chocolate fudge cake, pavlova and Christmas pudding. Alex from the Magic Circle, a magicians group, kicked off the entertainment. Comhaltas Maynooth and Matt Ryals played traditional music. They were accompanied by Alex, Jenny Black from Halo Café and many of the guests who joined in.
The Blacks and the Ryals wanted to spread the message that you do not have to be alone at Christmas. They wanted to bring people together to feel supported, especially at Christmas. Many people even in our local community are struggling with loneliness, some may not have any close family or they may be homeless. Matt Black suggested that small towns across Ireland should organise similar events because it brings communities together. Christmas is full of fun but it can be a difficult time too for those facing the festive season alone.
Featured photo by Olesia Buyar
Article photo by Matt Black
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