WHEN the Novak family sit down to their Christmas dinner on Sunday they will be in the company of more than 100 others, many less fortunate than themselves.
It is, says Charlene Novak, something that her four young daughters and husband Gavin are looking forward to.
As one of the organisers of the festive dinner at the Jubilee Centre in Paddock she helped to stage a similar three-course meal for the lonely and homeless last year.
“My girls absolutely loved it,” she says. “They chatted to people and had a great time. They get presents like other children but for them that’s not the focus of Christmas.
“For them it was seeing how happy it made other people.” Her daughters, Elisha, Lauren, Chloe and Amber, are 10, seven, six and five years-old respectively.
A team of 30 from the Jubilee Centre Community Church, of which Charlene is a member, will cook and serve a traditional Christmas lunch of soup or melon, turkey or beef and a selection of desserts.
They took over the tradition of feeding the homeless and lonely on Christmas Day from the Salvation Army in Huddersfield. And this year they are being assisted by a team of 10 from the Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque in Fartown, who are cooking food for the guests to take home.
The Ahmadiyya Muslims have a long tradition of helping the needy at Christmas and last year held their own festive meal but this year have joined forces with the Jubilee Centre.
“We are promoting love for all and hatred for none,” said Nadeem Uddin, from Birkby, a member of the mosque. “We are a peaceful Muslim organisation and believe there are no barriers between cultures and different religions. It is our responsibility to be kind to our neighbours and help in the community. It’s a big part of Islam to help anybody who is less fortunate.”
Charlene, from Lockwood, agrees that Christmas should be a time when communities can come together. “We all want the same thing,” she says.
“As Christians we are not going to be preaching the gospel but showing God’s love in a practical way – the same as the Ahmadiyya Muslims are doing.”
Both this year and last year the Christmas lunch has also been supported by the Huddersfield Pendragon Round Table, who have donated £800 towards the cost of the meal.
An additional £300 has been spent on gifts for the diners and will be covered by the church.
“The meal is for those who are on their own; people who have had a rubbish year,” said Charlene. “Last year there were some single parent families, the elderly, people with mental health problems and a couple of homeless people.”
Members of the church work regularly with the homeless and needy and go out on a weekly basis with hot drinks, snacks, warm clothing and blankets.
“We go into the town centre in the evening and we are there for anyone who needs us,” explained Charlene.
“It’s not just the homeless, we also see people who have had too much to drink and need help getting home. The police gave us boxes full of blankets, hats and scarves to hand out.
“We find that kindness changes people and refreshes people’s hearts so that they want to do the same for others.”
And so for the Kovak children, Christmas morning will be about opening presents and playing with new toys, but at noon they’ll be off to start setting up the tables at the Jubilee Centre so that the true festive celebrations can begin. Once the meal is over they will take part in a nativity play and the singing of Christmas carols.
“People have such huge expectations of Christmas,” says Charlene, “and find that they are never realised.
“There’s a lot more to it than spending money. I saw a programme about the miners during their strike and the wives said they had been dreading Christmas but, in fact, it was one of the best they had ever had.
“Christmas is about family and community.”
l There are still a few spaces left for guests at the Christmas meal. Volunteer drivers to take guests there and back are also needed. If you can help, call Charlene on 07731344040.