The Christmas tree on George Green is due to be lit up tomorrow evening (Friday) with a festive community celebration.

Parker Dairies milkman Steve Hayden will be switching on the lights as part of the effort to promote a cleaner, greener, plastic-free Christmas. There will also be some milk available from the accompanying Parker Dairies milk float.

This event has grown in popularity over recent years, with more than 150 people gathering last year to hear the Salvation Army band and children from local schools sing.

It is one of those times in the year when the local community comes together as one.

The season of Christmas is a time for family, community and celebration. People do come together at this time year – sometimes they fall out, but generally it is a time for peace and good will.

However, Christmas is also a time to remember those who are less well off around the world. The Christmas story is about a mother and father searching for somewhere to have their child. They were turned away by some places, finishing up in a stable – not a very hygienic, clean place to give birth. In fact, a squalid place that typified a life of poverty at the time.

It is this image that has to be before us in the Christmas season. A time for a reality check about how so many in the world and indeed our own country struggle from day to day. There are millions around the world starving, striving just to get the basic rudiments of life. Many are looking for places to live. Lots are fleeing persecution and wars, crossing frontiers looking for somewhere they and their family can live in peace.

In our own country, the number of rough sleepers living and indeed dying on our streets has gone up. More than a million people are going to foodbanks because they lack the basics of life. Thousands of families struggle to feed their children during school holidays. The NHS creaks, under pressure, to cope.

These people are the ones we need to remember and reach out to over the Christmas season and beyond. Yes, Christmas is a time for family and community, a time of giving and sharing but also a time to question unjust structures across the world that force incredible numbers to live in conditions akin to those of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in that stable all those years ago.

So enjoy the Christmas tree celebration, but let’s never forget to remember others less well off than ourselves.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See