Belgians and soldiers provided with Christmas cheer in Maidenhead

Maidenhead Congregational Church reported on the Christmastime experiences of the Belgian refugees it sponsored, and also on their contributions to local soldiers’ Christmas, in the church magazine:

The beginning of our New Year is deeply stained with war! May there be peace long before it ends! But meanwhile, if we are assured that a righteous God rules, and that our cause is righteous, we can go forward with confidence, and rest upon His Almighty arm.”

Some of our friends did their best to give the Belgians a really happy Christmas in spite of the fact that they are strangers in a strange land. Mrs. Mash provided the children with a Christmas tree, laden with a generous supply of ‘fruit’, and many others sent in dolls and goodies until the little ones must have been bewildered. If they were not ill before Christmas was over, the firm restraint of their parents should excite our admiration. Several friends too contributed towards sending a Christmas hamper to the adults of the household, and we may hope that the season’s joy sparkled and glowed upon that hearth. No doubt the days must sometimes drag heavily. A Commission has been sitting to consider the question of occupation for refugees in our land; but they seem to have discovered no satisfactory method of meeting the difficulty. We can only hope that their own land will speedily be open to them once more.

Many of the soldiers obtained leave to go home for Christmas, but there were enough left to make it necessary to provide for their Christmas jollity. Our rooms were gaily decorated with flags and pictures and ever-greens, and an abundant supply of oranges, apples, nuts, muscatels, &c. was obtained from the Town Committee. Ten or twelve of the soldiers formed themselves into a Committee to be responsible for all the arrangements, and they engineered a “sing-song” on Christmas night, which seems to have pleased all the occupants of a crowded room. Quiet occupations, such as reading, writing, playing dominoes, or bagatelle, were relegated for the time to the infant room.

The bagatelle tables, of which we have two, are very popular, and are incessantly in use. Writing, too, is a great occupation. One evening recently more than a hundred men were counted, all writing letters at one time. It is quite a business to keep them supplied with writing materials. The ladies in the mending room are kept busily employed for two hours or more each evening. And the Refreshment department is admirably worked by representatives of the P.S.A. Society.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, January 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

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