The 2021 Black Santa Sit-out for charities got underway on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, on Monday December 13, 2021.
This is the fourth Christmas sit-out for the Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast, with last year’s event going ahead despite the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year marks the 45th Black Santa Appeal, a tradition started in December 1976 by Dean Sammy Crooks and maintained by his successors, Deans Jack Shearer, Houston McKelvey and John Mann.
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.
This year, Black Santa will stage his sit-out during the two weeks before Christmas.
Every year, the people of Belfast and beyond dig deep to support the Black Santa Appeal. In 2020, well over £200,000 was collected and distributed to more than 230 charities at the Cathedral’s Good Samaritans Service held in February.
Many of the charities supported by the Black Santa Sit-out serve local communities across Northern Ireland. In addition to registered charities working across the whole range of needs, including mental health issues, the homeless, medical research, and those caring for children, youth and the elderly, this year the Dean has a particular focus on charities that work directly with refugee communities in Northern Ireland and on groups supporting people with disability. As happens each year, a proportion of the money raised is also given to Christian Aid.
For 2021, the Black Santa Appeal is once again being supported practically by the firm PwC, who have assisted in setting up a dedicated website www.belfastblacksanta.org. Staff from PwC have donated their time to make videos of some of the charities supported by last year’s appeal, and from the start of the sit-out will broadcast a daily vlog with the Dean.
In line with Covid guidelines, Black Santa will be encouraging the use of contactless donations with the tap of a card. However, donations in cash placed in the traditional barrel will also be most welcome, from bags of coins to bank notes in all denominations. Donations can also be made online on the Black Santa website.
Dean Forde said: “For so many people, the past 18 months of the Covid pandemic have been hugely challenging and the demands faced by local charities to meet the increasing need seems almost insurmountable.
“But I also know that the generosity of the people of Belfast and across our province is almost without limit. This year, as we focus on those who live everyday with disability, and those who have arrived in our communities with nothing but their stories of pain, may we offer the warmth of our hearts and the generosity of our giving.
“This way we can show that our home place is, above all else, a place of true welcome. For surely this will be the greatest Christmas gift any of us can give.”
Black Santa, supported by the Canons of the Belfast Cathedral, will be on the steps of St Anne’s Cathedral in Donegall Street every day from December 13th until Christmas Eve (with the exception of Sunday December 19th).