The East York Seniors Christmas Dinner will take place today (Friday, Dec. 25), but it will be very different from past years as it will be a COVID-19 pandemic version of the annual event and there will be no in-person gathering.
The Christmas Day lunch for East York seniors first began taking place in the 1980s. It was started by former Borough of East York Mayor Dave Johnson. It then continued as the Mayor’s Lunch until megacity amalgamation took effect in 1998. After that, local councillors took over the organizing and hosting of the dinner.
For 2020, the event will not include a gathering of local seniors to enjoy their Christmas Day dinner together. Instead, seniors who have already registered in advance to participate were given the choice of picking up a meal or having one delivered to their residence on Christmas Day.
Given the COVID-19 safety protocols, that was the only way the event was going to be able to take place this year.
Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher, who helps organize and host the dinner which is co-hosted by Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford in partnership with the East York Foundation, said she was glad that the tradition was able to continue despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
It is due to the efforts of many volunteers that the meals can be made and delivered today, she said.
“It’s so wonderful we’re able to deliver meals to seniors this year for the East York Seniors Christmas Dinner,” said Fletcher.
“I know they look forward to this annual event and it will be difficult not to see each other in person this year. But I hope the warm meal and gift bag being delivered to their door brings them some joy and holiday cheer. I’d like to extend a big thank you to all the amazing volunteers – this wouldn’t happen without them.”
Bradford said there was a lot of interest in this year’s event given the extreme isolation so many seniors have been in due to the pandemic.
“Like most years, there was more interest from local seniors than we could accommodate with meals which really brings home the message of how many folks could use our support, especially during the holidays,” he said.
“The pandemic has shed new light on loneliness and the gaps in our services to support seniors in the community. This year’s effort for the dinner has helped build new connections with people wanting to give back and do more to support their neighbours.”
Both Bradford and Fletcher are looking forward to Christmas 2021 when, hopefully, everyone will be able to gather again in person to carry on this East York tradition.