Christmas can be a lonely time for people of all ages and as the festive season approaches those experiencing social isolation, without friends or family nearby, can feel even worse.
But one pub in South London is truly embracing the Christmas spirit to help people in their local community.
For five years now, the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon has opened its doors on Christmas Day to offer free Christmas dinner for those with nowhere else to go.
The goodwill gesture by landlords Mick and Sarah Dore has no catch.
Posting on Twitter, Mick Dore wrote: ‘Don't be alone on Christmas day this year. Don't draw the curtains & tell your neighbours you've "gone to your sisters in Worthing". Come here. We'll give you a FREE Christmas dinner, with FREE booze, then you can join in with the loads of people just like you. Please, come.’ (sic)
Don't be alone on Christmas day this year. Don't draw the curtains & tell your neighbours you've "gone to your sisters in Worthing". Come here. We'll give you a FREE Christmas dinner, with FREE booze, then you can join in with the loads of people just like you. Please, come. pic.twitter.com/4FSYf2XeVC— The Alexandra (@TheAlexSW19) November 26, 2019
Mr Dore told Yahoo News UK how the tradition started: “One year we had an old man visit who was a retired seaman, a lovely bloke.
“I offered him the opportunity to stay and have dinner with me, the family and the staff but he declined, saying he had “somewhere else to go” which he clearly didn’t. That inspired us to do a meal the following year.”
He added: “We get really tear-jerking stories, including one man last year who told us it was the first time he’d had company on Christmas day for 17 years.”
Last year 109 people were fed a three-course dinner with drinks - there are no bookings in advance, so it’s always a surprise how many will turn up, but according to Mr Dore the event has grown year on year.
He said the best part of the day is seeing the smiles on people’s faces.
Doors open at midday and everyone is welcome to join, if they would otherwise have been on their own.
They’re bought a drink at the bar, and put into groups to socialise before sitting down to eat a three course dinner in groups of between four and ten people.
Mr Dore said: “I think given the large amount of family imagery and nostalgia on TV, it’s only natural that anyone who does feel a bit lonely, is going to feel it even more on Christmas Day.”
Since, sharing the invitation on Twitter, the post has been liked more than 1,300 times.
Mr Dore said: “The response has been massive. Loads of people offering help with either funding (we don’t take any cash), presents for folks who are coming, free taxi rides or help on the day.”
Those who wish to donate can offer a small gift such as a box of chocolates, or pack of toiletries, which are given to the guests.
In January the Alexandra pub was declared one of the best boozers in Britain, after it was named the regional winner in the inaugural ‘parliamentary Pub of the year’ competition.
The pub also hosts free Meet up Monday events every week between 11am and 2pm, for those feeling lonely in London.