For many of us, Christmas is a day to be spent with family and friends - opening presents, singing our favorite carols, enjoying all those holiday goodies that mom, grandma and all the aunts have been busy baking since Thanksgiving, and generally making merry.
But what about those people who, for whatever reason, are spending the day alone? At First Lutheran Church in Detroit Lakes, the congregation has decided to embrace all those who need a little extra holiday cheer.
Every Dec. 25 the church opens up its doors from noon to 2 p.m. and invites the community to spend "Christmas At Our House" (yes, even those who burned the roast beast!). The event is free and open to the public.
"I think we started doing this in about 2004," says the event's volunteer organizer, Jim McCormack, adding that it was the brainchild of congregation member Barry Fewson, "who wanted to ensure that no one would have to spend Christmas Day alone, or be unable to enjoy a nice, hot holiday meal."
Since its beginnings, Christmas At Our House has grown to serve upwards of 300-400 people each year, employing between 60-70 volunteers - who also get to enjoy the feast once they are finished with their work.
"About 80 percent of the help we get is church members, though we get a lot of non-members who help out as well," said McCormack, noting that several congregation members bring extended family and other holiday guests to volunteer along with them.
"The more hands, the lighter the workload," he added. On Christmas morning , the volunteers get up early and head on over to the church to start making a feast fit for a king: Baked ham with pork dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, lefse, and pie - both pumpkin and apple. Coffee, milk and lemonade will also be served.
For those who are unable to make it to the church during the feast, home deliveries are also available to all those living within the Detroit Lakes city limits, McCormack said.
In order to organize all the drivers needed for deliveries, the church is requesting that those who would like to reserve a home-delivered meal call the church reservation line at 218-844-2808 by noon on Friday, Dec. 23.
"About a third of the meals we serve are home delivered," says McCormack. "We start putting those together at about 11:15-11:30, and our drivers get out on the road to make sure they get delivered by noon. We usually have between 12-20 people making deliveries."
He added that they restrict the delivery area to within city limits because otherwise, "the food is cold by the time it gets there."
Promptly at noon, dinner is served in the fellowship hall.
"Usually by 12:40, we have all the tables full," said McCormack. "Then when enough people have finished, we start bringing in the next round."
However, he added, "It's not uncommon for people to sit and talk for a while, socializing and visiting with each other."
In fact, that's part of the experience - and this year, because Christmas is on a Sunday, anyone who would like to join the congregation at their 8:30 or 10:45 a.m. worship services is also welcome to do so, McCormack said. "If people want to come for the 10:45 service and then head downstairs to eat, that's fine," he added. "Our services are open to anyone."
First Lutheran Church is located at 912 Lake Ave., across the street from the Becker County Courthouse. For more information, please call the church office at 218-847-5656.