Christmas Day conjures up different meanings and memories for everyone.
At River of Life United Methodist Church in Beloit, however, there has been one constant for the past seven years.
“The purpose is to bring people together in fellowship,” said Pat Sands, a member of UMC as well as office manager/communications director.
As a result, the church is offering its Seventh Annual Christmas Day Dinner provided for anyone in the community who would like to come to their table.
Last year, the church served between 300 and 350 people, Sands said.
The doors open at 11 a.m. to the public and the meal is served between 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. by volunteers. Church members and volunteers either provide food or donations for food purchases for the meal, which will include turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, rolls, dessert and beverages.
Hosting the dinner has become a tradition for several families as well.
Even before the meal is served, people enter the church and are greeted by members of the Parssinen family, Sands said. Bob and Karen Parssinen and their children Annika and Reid set up, display and provide hors d’oeuvres.
Marge Johnson, her daughters Kathy Weiser and Lynn Caple and their families set up, display and serve the desserts. The desserts are provided by the United Methodist Women of the church, Sands said.
People who attend the sit-down dinner are seated in the large fellowship hall room where colorful poinsettias add a festive touch to the tables. Volunteers then serve the guests at the tables.
People come from all walks of life to the dinner. Sometimes, people come who don’t have family in the area or who meet with their families for Christmas on another day.
“We are so happy to be able to do this and that the community responds,” Sands said.
Adding to the merriment of the dinner is Christmas music performed by Judith Paddock, church organist.
Paddock likes to play a mixture of familiar carols and pop tunes, she said.
Adding to the fun is a versatile instrument.
“We have an instrument with a full keyboard that sounds like a piano or an organ or at times a celeste with a tinkly sound,” she said.
After seven years, the organizers of the dinner say it goes smoothly, with everyone knowing his or her role.
More than that, the people who are involved say the event adds real meaning to their day.
“You feel like you are doing the true thing of Christmas,” Sands said.
There is no charge for the dinner, but donations are accepted.