Christmas is such an important occasion in our nation’s calendar. It brings people together for joyful festivities, with religious reflection for some, a break from work for many, and a time for food, gifts, celebration and goodwill.

Our district’s schools have had nativities and parties, and we have all delighted in the twinkling light displays in our towns, villages and city centre, as we shop and prepare to see family and friends.

As Lord Mayor it is my great privilege to enjoy the festive period with many people around the district. This week I attended a wonderful carol service at the beautiful Bradford Cathedral, with hymns sung by the Bradford Cathedral Choir, and music provided by The City of Bradford Brass Band. I was also a guest The Salvation Army’s carol service at The Orchard centre in Leeds Road. It was most heartening to see the work they are doing to provide food and shelter to people experiencing homelessness.

Christmas falls at a time of year when there are many festivities. Jewish people have recently celebrated Hanukkah, while in November our Hindu, Sikh and Jain friends enjoyed Diwali, the festival of light. The Muslim community has also celebrated the birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH – Peace Be Upon Him). Christmas is of course the time for Christian people, but this season of goodwill invites everyone to join in the celebrations.

What Christmas and many of our other religious festivals, including Eid, share, is the joy of giving. As well as presents for our loved ones, we often take a moment to think of others less fortunate than ourselves. I would like to thank everyone who has supported my Lord Mayor’s Appeal so far this year. We are supporting the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice and Bradford Nightstop – two very important charities, which both work hard in the Bradford district to provide a service that benefits people at a time in their lives when they really need it.

The work of organisations that help people does not stop at Christmas. People will continue to be ill, or fall on difficult times in their lives, regardless of the calendar date. I would like to thank every person across the district whose vocation is to help others in need. Many people will be working over Christmas to help others, so thank you for your tremendous dedication. I would also like to send a special message of kindness to anyone suffering at this time of year.

So as we approach Christmas, and look forward to a new year, I hope that everyone will feel a measure of joy. Let us all take some time to appreciate our blessings and enjoy the celebrations. May peace be with you all this Christmas time.

Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Zafar Ali