CHRISTMAS is a time traditionally spent with family and friends – marked with presents under the tree and food on the table.
But for many, this ideal is a distant luxury.
That is why a Denmead pub is putting on a special lunch for pensioners who would otherwise be alone at this time of year.
Steve and Julie Burridge – landlords of the White Hart in Hambledon Road – will welcome more than 80 guests for a free Christmas meal on Monday.
Mr Burridge, 50, said: ‘We’re really looking forward to meeting everyone – it’s going to be a great afternoon.
‘We see lots of people sitting in the pub on their own and, at a time like Christmas, we thought an event like this could help change that.’
Out of 100 places available, 85 people have signed up for the lunch – which will be completely free.
Mr Burridge hopes as well as enjoying a lovingly-cooked meal, guests will make some new friends on the day.
He said: ‘For the main lunch, our visitors can expect turkey and all the trimmings – followed by a Christmas pudding for dessert.
‘But aside from that, this really is an opportunity for people on their own to get out of the house and come and enjoy some company.
‘Lots of people coming along may even end up becoming good friends at the end of the day.
‘If all goes well, we would love to see the event continue next year too.’
Many of those set to attend the Christmas lunch at the White Hart have been referred by local churches, GPs and nursing homes.
Guests without a means of transport will be taken to and from the event, for free, by two minibuses.
Volunteering to drive the Denmead Community Bus, Chris Riley, 61, will chauffeur visitors alongside his wife Julie.
Mr Riley said: ‘It’s very generous of the White Hart to put this event on at no cost for the guests.
‘We are really pleased to have the opportunity to help out with such a just cause and it would be great if it continues into the future.’
Entertainment throughout the afternoon will include live music and a raffle – which each guest will receive a free ticket to enter when they arrive.
There are still 15 spaces available for the lunch, which will take place between midday and 3pm on Monday, December 4.
If you are a pensioner living in Denmead and you would like to attend, call the White Hart pub on (023) 9225 5953.
When speaking to a member of staff in the first instance, please be sure to specify if you require transport to and from the event.