Christmas and Jews. Many a blog post entry can be weaved around the intricacies of identity and minority community at this festive season; from the queues for kosher turkeys, to the invention of the ‘Hanukkah Bush’, to the international Jewish conference held every year to avoid it all together save for trying very hard to remember to wish Happy Christmas to the hotel staff on the 25th itself.
And there are a whole load of rant-type posts I could write, regardlesss of my Jewish identity, about the over commercialisation of it all and my general bah humbug attitude to all things red gold and green for the next couple of weeks. It’s not just the terrible music that we are all enforced to listen to in any public spaces, or even the incessant emails in my inbox telling me I must spend lots of money now on things like overpriced underwear sets because they happen to be boxed in red gold and green and say Christmas on them. It’s that I have always felt that, just like Valentines Day actually just makes all the single people in the world feel really rubbish, so does Christmas make all the lonely, or poor, or not-got-a-Christmas-lunch-to-go-to people feel rubbish as well.
Two years ago, at this season, I first met the girl and her young son who have changed my life: I volunteered over Christmas at Angel Lodge; the hostel in Wakefield for asylum seekers when they arrive in the UK. I came with bags of small gifts for the children for the Christmas party organised by PAFRAS (a fabulous organisation here in Leeds supporting refugees and asylum seekers), and, hooked, I returned on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day with a car load of people both times (the wonders of a Facebook call out!) some biccies and choccies, and the gift of Time. Time to sit and talk with some of the residents, and listen to them, and for those moments to give them a sense that they matter, that someone cared, that there may just be some hope.
Fast forward to February this year, when I was conducting lots of ‘research’ (read: sitting in lots of lovely cafes) and I met with the guys behind Cielo ( a really really fabulous community cafe in Garforth and now I believe Cross Gates too) and they told me that they had opened on Christmas Day. They said that it was really wonderful to create a space that was open when everything else was shut, and they were really surprised at the amount of people who came, to share a mince pie, to raise a glass, and wish each other Merry Christmas. A definite lightbulb moment for me. I wrote it down in my notebook, might have even put a box around it with a big star doodle. Yes. I was going to do this.. one day…
And that one day? 25 December 2014. Yes. That’s right. ToastLoveCoffee will be open on Christmas morning, 10-12noon. Please do join us and raise a mug, enjoy a mince pie (or slice of toast), have a chat; because if you do, and we can create a space in our city for less people to feel rubbish on December 25, believe me, I really will feel like all my Christmases will have come at once.