It is 44 years since Dean Sammy Crooks stood on the steps of Belfast Cathedral for the very first Cathedral Sit Out in 1976. Wrapped in his black clerical cloak, the press gave him the name which has stuck – Black Santa.
Five different Deans of Belfast have carried on the tradition, each year raising thousands of pounds which are given away again to support hundreds of local charities.
But for December 2020, with a the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country, the current Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev Stephen Forde, realised that things must be done differently. Black Santa is going digital!
With the practical support of financial services giant PWC, a new website, www.BelfastBlackSanta.org will go live on December 1st, supporting this year’s Black Santa appeal across the country and across the internet.
The website will feature video reports from charities who have benefited from the Black Santa Appeal. Well known celebrities will add their encouragement to give generously. The Dean will post a daily video for the ‘17 Sleeps to Black Santa,’ when Santa Live takes up position on the steps of the cathedral.
Most importantly, people will be able to make their donations, large or small, via the website to support of this year’s Black Santa Appeal, with a focus on charities supporting people with mental health issues in the face of the current pandemic, in addition to a wide range of other needs.
Dean Forde said: “In the face of unprecedented need, it is more important than ever that everyone who can is as generous as they can manage. Black Santa standing on the steps needs every pound his digital counterpart can raise to support those charities who will make Christmas real every day of the coming year.”