The ‘Black Santa’ tradition at Belfast Cathedral was started almost 41 years ago by Dean Sammy Crooks. Concerned at the emphasis being placed on necessary and costly building programmes at the cathedral, Dean Crooks decided to stand on Donegall Street in front of the cathedral and beg for the poor and charitable causes.
With a small barrel in which donations could be placed, and dressed in the familiar black, Anglican clerical cloak, Dean Crooks “sat out” each day of the week before Christmas. Thus began the tradition of Belfast’s Deans sitting out for charities. The local press described Dean Crooks as Belfast’s Black Santa, and the description struck a lasting chord with the public.
The commencement of the Sit-out attracts considerable attention in the local press, radio and television. The leaders of the four main Churches in Ireland, the Lord Mayor of Belfast and many other community leaders call at the cathedral to greet the Dean…and to contribute!
All the money gathered is donated to local charities with a proportion given to Christian Aid. The range of charities includes medical research; those caring for children, youth and the elderly; the improvement of employment opportunities for young people and a host of small charities which cannot afford paid fund-raisers.
Donations may be made at any time of the year, by sending a cheque made payable to ‘Cathedral Sit-out,’ Belfast Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast BT1 2HB, or you can donate online HERE
The 2017 Sit-out will go ahead as normal although for the first time there will be no Dean to act as Black Santa (a new Dean is expected to be installed in the New Year). Staff, the Canons of the Cathedral, the Bishops of Connor and Down & Dromore, and the dedicated team of Black Santa volunteers will ensure the tradition is maintained.