The 2019 Black Santa Sit-out for charities gets underway on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Monday December 16.
This is the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast’s, second full Christmas Sit-out, and the 43rd Black Santa Appeal since the tradition was begun by Dean Sammy Crooks in December 1976. It has been maintained by successive deans, Jack Shearer, Houston McKelvey and John Mann.
Black Santa stages his sit-out on the steps of Belfast Cathedral in the week before Christmas. Dean Crooks was dubbed Black Santa by the media because he wore a black Anglican clerical cloak to protect him from the elements, and the name has stuck for more than four decades.
Each year, the people of Belfast and beyond dig deep to support the Black Santa Appeal, donating funds which are distributed to more than 200 charities at the Cathedral’s Good Samaritans Service in February each year.
The charities to benefit include groups working with mental health, the homeless, medical research, those caring for children, youth and the elderly, organisations working to improve employment opportunities, as well as a host of small charities which cannot afford paid fundraisers. A proportion of the money raised is also given to Christian Aid.
This year, Black Santa is going contactless, allowing people to make a donation with just a tap of a card. Bags of pennies collected through the year, notes raised at special events in support of the appeal, and small change dug out of a pocket are still warmly welcomed, as are online donations which can be made at www.belfastcathedral.org.
Black Santa also has a new logo, and some special Black Santa items for sale as Christmas gifts – you can purchase a unique Black Santa ‘beanie hat’ to keep your ears warm on the coldest of December days, with all profits going straight to the Black Santa Appeal.
Dean Stephen Forde said: “As Dean of Belfast, it is the giving of so many people to Black Santa which, for me, makes the days before Christmas very special. Some will give bundles of notes, wrapped up in a rubber band. Others will dig deep into their pocket for their last penny or pound coin.
“Often there is a story to tell. Each understands that at the heart of the Christmas message it is giving to those who have little or nothing, which brings meaning to the festival and light into dark places. To me, this is ministry which matters. This is love incarnate.
Black Santa, supported by the Canons of the Cathedral, will be on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street every day from December 16 until Christmas Eve (with the exception of Sunday December 22).