Gazette letters: Christmas trees, helping the homeless, and Peabody’s less-than-festive Christmas missive

Will's Christmas tree. Picture: Will McCallum

Will's Christmas tree. Picture: Will McCallum - Credit: Will McCallum

My Christmas tree is dying, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

I felt guilty enough as it was lugging the thing inside in the first place, before the needles started to litter my floor and the branches sag beneath the baubles.

It is so odd, this yuletide indulgence – to bring nature indoors. Outside is too cold and dark, so we brighten our curtain rails with red berries and build wreaths out of garden waste. Holly, mistletoe and ivy all hung in gaudy display. It’s fun.

There is still much see outdoors, though. A big red sky over Hackney Downs was a real highlight one evening this week. I had stopped to investigate one of the apple trees in the community orchard in the north west corner. I was intrigued to see it managing to retain its leaves through the cold weather, silvery undersides glistening in the evening light.

A pair of song thrushes rushing down as I left crumbs on a bench in St Mary’s cemetery were a surprise. Despite seeing them regularly in Springfield and Millfields parks, they are not birds I associate with London. With their yellow-green speckled breasts, they seemed too pretty and full of life for the grey December day.

The longest night will soon be behind us, thank goodness. We can celebrate next week the impending six months of increasing light.


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As we approach Christmas, the thoughts of many turn to the plight of the homeless and those in need, writes the Hackney Ecumenical Borough Deans Group.

We are extremely concerned as churches to see poverty growing with the use of the food bank growing dramatically, and the huge demands made on the Hackney winter night shelter, supported by churches around the borough.

Local churches are doing what we can, along with Hackney Council and other agencies, to try and help needy and vulnerable people facing one of the biggest housing crises for decades.

There is an expression, “the invisible poor”, which can affect us in Hackney – which is still one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK. Out of sight, out of mind. People who are living on or even below the breadline, families, young people, the elderly (poverty does not distinguish age or gender) continue to somehow survive in a society which seems to be increasingly hostile to their predicament. Hackney is not “all hipster” and trendy new restaurants. That’s only some of the gloss you see on main streets.

We are reminded of a Bible verse – “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13: verse 2).

This year we have also seen the welcome establishment of the Faith Forum, and more working together of the different faiths in the borough and other community groups. The establishment by the council of the No Place for Hate champion, a role filled very well by Cllr Sade Etti, is significant.

As Christians, we share with our sisters and brothers of other faith traditions in finding offensive all examples of exclusion based on ethnic identity, which can damage relationships between neighbours of all ages, faiths and backgrounds.

We affirm that our diversity is a source of strength and that we are committed in hope to learning from one another, and bringing peace to our communities.

It is that same hope that brought a baby to a place in the Middle East called Bethlehem. It is to establish that same peace that, as Christians, we believe God came into the world.

This Christmas, join us in celebrating our diversity in love. Love overcomes all, even fear and hatred. Say hello to your neighbour wherever you are. And show possible angels some hospitality.


The housing association Peabody has about 7,000 homes in Hackney, writes Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.

It has sent its tenants a Christmas message headed: “A few things to remember this Christmas.”

It starts: “We’ve pulled together a roundup of all the useful information you might need over the holidays, from parking and disposing of your bulky waste to our Christmas opening hours and key contact numbers. It’s also really important that you make sure you are able to pay your rent this Christmas, otherwise you may put yourself at risk of losing your home.”

A charitable trust truly getting with the spirit of Christmas.