Black Santa Appeal: Even in difficult times, Belfast's people are amazingly generous
One thing I have discovered since taking up my position as the new Dean of St Anne's is what an important place Black Santa has for the people of Belfast preparing for Christmas.
For the past 42 years, Black Santa has wrapped himself in his distinctive black cloak to brave the winter weather on the steps of St Anne's Cathedral for the week before Christmas.
Come sun or rain, wind or cold, Black Santa has received money generously given by the people and businesses of Belfast and from across the province. And, within eight weeks, all of the money raised on the steps of St Anne's will have been given away again by the cathedral's Good Samaritan Service.
For me, as the new Dean of Belfast, my first major event last March was to give away over £120,000 to almost 200 local charities.
From today, Monday, December 17, until Christmas Eve, I will be taking my place as the sixth Black Santa, standing on the steps of the cathedral.
I look forward to welcoming all the people who have a gift to place into Black Santa's now familiar barrel.
What makes Black Santa so special is that, even in difficult times for Belfast city centre, and uncertain times for our nation, people will be so amazingly generous.
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Christmas is about giving, most especially when we give to those we do not know but whose needs we know about.
That is why, for 42 years, people have taken the Black Santa appeal to their hearts.
And it is also why I am so looking forward to meeting each person who this Christmas gives whatever they can to Belfast's brand new Black Santa.
The Very Rev
Dean of Belfast