Stephen Jardine: Sharing a tradition with those in need

This time next week we will be tucking into the mountain of leftovers but before that, the greatest feast of them all awaits.

Christmas dinner is a national institution. Picture: Contributed

In a world of endless choice, the Christmas feast is perhaps our greatest eating tradition. As our options grow, it’s sheer predictability becomes more and more important.

Our shops are windows to a global food economy where Honduran prawns are as easy to buy as Scotch beef. With so many options, there is something reassuring about the way we all still sit down once a year to eat more or less the same meal.

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Over the next week we will spend over £30 million on brussel sprouts and consume over 25 million Christmas puddings. At the centre of it all, there is the turkey. Over ten million will be eaten on Friday with two thirds of us opting for the traditional bird.

Sure, it isn’t the most exciting dish but that’s not the point. Turkey is about much more than just the slightly dry taste. It’s a connection to the past, back to childhood. If food is love, the Christmas meal is when we feel it most and that comes down to who we share it with.

Sitting together to eat a meal is an intensely important slice of human interaction. It is partly how we work out who we are and on Christmas Day all that becomes focussed on the people most important to us. For one day, they are all around us.

Unless we are alone. This year, up to 40,000 older Scots will spend Christmas Day alone. The great feast the rest of us enjoy is a reminder to them of loss and loneliness.

However, there are ways we can help. Age UK’s “No-one should have no-one at Christmas” campaign aims to attract public interest surrounding the old man on the moon, currently on our TV screens.

And an award-winning Scottish charity is using food as a way to reach the lonely. Food Train launched 20 years ago in Dumfries to help older people with their grocery shopping. It’s now active in West Lothian, Stirling, Glasgow, Dundee and Dumfries and Galloway and uses volunteers to enable older people to live independently at home by ensuring they get fresh groceries delivered weekly alongside improved social contact and friendship.

Their latest project, Meal Makers, is backed by the Scottish Government and involves people sharing home-cooked food with others in their area who may not be able to cook for themselves. The dedicated website makes it easy to connect with those in need and it’s then just a case of dropping the meal off and letting home-cooked food do it’s magic.

Sharing a meal with someone less fortunate is the Christmas spirit made real. That attitude will also be apparent in Edinburgh where Crisis at Christmas will be operating for the third year running. Over 300 volunteers will give up their celebrations to feed the homeless and less fortunate at the Southside Community Centre.

As we look ahead to the great feast on Friday, what better time to remember the elderly and the alone and would love to have company and the pleasure of a home cooked meal. We all have the power to help.

And to those volunteering to help feed and support the vulnerable this Christmas Day, thank you for being the people we would all like to be. To them and to you, have a very Happy Christmas.