Madrid City Hall sends out Christmas Eve dinner invite to 300 homeless

Charity event by a religious foundation and a catering firm will look “like a luxury wedding”

The inside of Madrid City Hall following restoration work in 2011.
The inside of Madrid City Hall following restoration work in 2011.Cristóbal Manuel

Madrid City Hall will host a Christmas Eve dinner for 300 homeless people.

Mayor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist coalition Ahora Madrid, has lent the landmark building to a religious foundation that is organizing the charity event.

Father Ángel, who heads the non-profit Mensajeros de la Paz (Peace Messengers), said that this will be the first event of its kind in the Spanish capital.

Mayor Carmena confirmed last week that she will be there at the event, which has been named Nochebuena para todos (Christmas Eve for Everyone).

“We will be glad to host them,” she said.

A catering service that works regularly with the foundation will provide the meals free of charge.

“We are happy to do it, because anything that Father Ángel comes up with is of great satisfaction to us,” says Juan Francisco Fernández, one of the catering firm’s two partners.

Father Ángel is the founder of Mensajeros de la Paz and the parish priest at the Church of San Antón, located in the heart of Chueca, a hip neighborhood in downtown Madrid. This is not the first time that he has made the headlines: his revamp of the church, which now offers Wi-Fi and live TV coverage of Vatican Masses, has attracted significant media attention.

Now, the pioneering priest has enlisted the help of Madrid’s new leftist mayor to bring some Christmas cheer to the city’s most disadvantaged citizens.

“The main thing is that this is a show of affection for the homeless, who have nobody to share such a special date with,” said the priest, who keeps his church open 24/7 and hands out 200 meals every day.

Like a luxury wedding

The experience will be comparable to attending a luxury wedding, said Fernández of the catering firm Lecaser.

The large, glass-ceilinged hall is being filled with round tables covered with white tablecloths, while dark-red bows will be hung on the white-covered chairs.

Mayor Manuela Carmena said she will be there to greet the guests.
Mayor Manuela Carmena said she will be there to greet the guests.Gregorio Borgia (AP)

The menu features seafood soup, prawns, a variety of hors d’oeuvre, and a choice of either roast lamb or bream, both with a side serving of potatoes. For dessert, guests will be served a crème caramel topped with whipped cream.

As for drinks, no alcohol is allowed. Besides water and sodas, “they will toast with Champín,” an alcohol-free beverage made to resemble champagne that is often used at children’s parties, explained Fernández.

Guests will also receive a party bag with a selection of turrón, a popular Christmas nougat.

By Thursday, nearly 200 invitations had already been handed out at San Antón church, located on 63, Hortaleza street. The event will begin at 8pm on December 24.

“We have 400 workers and so far, over 60 have volunteered to wait on tables that night – some even gave up on being with their own families,” says Fernández.

“And taxi drivers have volunteered to take guests to and from City Hall that night,” adds Father Ángel.

English version by Susana Urra.

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