Los Angeles

Christmas Traditions in Southern California Give Out Free Meals, Laughs

Christmas in Los Angeles County Tuesday included Masses and church services celebrating the birth of Jesus and annual events providing meals to the homeless and poor.

English-language Masses were celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with Archbishop Jose H. Gomez also celebrating the 12:30 p.m. Spanish-language Mass, with the Spanish-language choir leading in song.

Gomez also celebrated a Mass with general population inmates at the Men's Central Jail Tuesday morning.

"Let us make this our Christmas prayer -- that we will open our hearts to the gift of Jesus,'' Gomez wrote in his column published on Angelus News, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' news website.

"May we grow in our compassion for our neighbors, especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us."

Nearly 2,000 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children were served a Christmas brunch at The Midnight Mission beginning at 8 a.m.

There was also a Santa's Village where children were able to select toys of their choice and meet Santa Claus.

Families began lining up Monday night to secure their places in line.

"We appreciate The Midnight Mission because unfortunately we can't afford the toys of these days,'' Wayne Mingo, who came to the mission with seven children from his family, told NBC4. "Toys are expensive."

Mingo said he and his family members were "having fun, socializing with other people" in the line.

The Christmas brunch and toy giveaway "provide our homeless and near-homeless guests not only with a traditional holiday meal, but also with the emotional satisfaction that comes with the opportunity to celebrate a national holiday," said Georgia Berkovich, the mission's director of public affairs.

"Of the many services The Midnight Mission provides to our unique community, one of the most important is the sense of family we offer to those who often feel lost and forgotten during the holidays and other days of celebration."

The mission is seeking donations of $5 to $10 to defray the costs of the Christmas brunch meals. Donations can be made by texting the keyword "Meals" to 71777 from any cellphone.

Organizers of the annual interfaith Christmas Dinner for the Homeless and Hungry at Hollywood United Methodist Church hoped to serve 1,500 people.

More than 100 roasted turkeys with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce and a host of desserts were being served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to retirees, homeless people, working families with young children and other hungry and needy individuals and families, organizers said.

Diners received bags filled with personal care items, new socks, hats and blankets. Children got toys, their choice of a book and have the opportunity to have a family picture taken with Santa Claus.

The Christmas Dinner was originally a project of the Hollywood Interfaith Coalition, whose churches had been serving Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of the coalition's Jewish participants thought it would be a nice idea for the Jewish participants to take over the serving of Christmas Dinner so the members of the coalition celebrating and observing Christmas could stay home with their families.

Temple Israel of Hollywood became the lead organizer and host of the event in the 1980s.

The Laugh Factory also held meal services, along with serving up laughs. Comedians including Paul Rodriguez and Tim Allen turned up to hand out food and joy.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
Contact Us