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Black Santa's Diary: Countdown to Christmas begins outside St Anne's Cathedral

Rev Stephen Forde
Rev Stephen Forde

By Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast

We can all remember, as children, counting down the number of sleeps until Christmas; the anticipation that Santa would come to our house, and leave us that Christmas present we dreamed of.

As Dean of Belfast, preparing for the day when Black Santa takes to the steps of St Anne's Cathedral has a similar feel of anticipation.

For the past months there has been a daily countdown until today.

The publicity has been issued. Charities across Northern Ireland have been invited to apply for grants from the Black Santa Appeal. Teams of volunteers have been organised to count the money as it comes in.

Neighbouring businesses have promised to keep Black Santa supplied with drinks of hot coffee and chocolate. A rota has been worked out with canons and other volunteers to stand alongside Black Santa, as members of the public make their donations.

This year, we have designed a new logo and we will have information explaining the tradition of Black Santa that people have taken to their heart over the past 43 years.

If the weather is cold, you will be able to buy a Black Santa beanie hat, with all the profits also going to the Black Santa appeal.

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We are also introducing contactless donations. Realising that many people no longer carry cash, we have introduced our new contactless terminal.

But my real anticipation is for those people and charities, in today's world, where austerity really bites, who will receive a helping hand, extra kindness, or practical support, because ordinary people giving to the Black Santa Appeal, will give their Christmas kindness to make a real difference.

The Very Rev Stephen Forde is Dean of Belfast

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