The Christmas Lunch with the poor is a tradition of the Community of Sant’Egidio since 1982, when a small group of poor people was welcomed at the banquet table in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. There were about 20 people invited: some of our elderly friends of the neighborhood and some homeless people we had gotten to know from the streets of Rome.
More than 30 years have passed since that first Christmas lunch. From that moment on, the banquet table has widened, and from Trastevere it has reached many parts of the world. The Christmas lunch has truly become a World-Wide Feast. The feast has widened year after year, like a beneficial contagion, and has reached many countries of the South of the world. In 2014 181,000 people gathered for the Christmas lunch in more than 600 cities and 78 countries of the world. The joy of the Christmas lunch was also brought to 18,000 prisoners in 96 prisons.
The Christmas feast takes place everywhere, but above all where there is sorrow. In churches, in institutions for the elderly, for children, for handicapped people, in prisons, at hospitals, and also in the streets. Because, the sense of Christmas is to bring the feast also to the darkest and coldest corners as well as to the most dispersed and forgotten places.
Here in the United States we have been celebrating Christmas with our friends in nursing homes and on the street for almost 30 years.