|Dec. 26, 2017 -- As families gathered around the table to enjoy the festive meal next to the Christmas tree on Monday, dozens of City of Athens employees and volunteers opened the doors of an indoor stadium in the center of the Greek capital and laid out tables to welcome about 1,000 homeless and poor people.
With the support of a supermarket chain which donated all the ingredients for the Christmas meal, the municipality of Athens served turkeys, salads, soft drinks and desserts to disadvantaged citizens who struggle through the festive season financially and psychologically.
The annual feast has become a tradition in the City of Athens, as well as many municipalities across Greece, in particular during the seven-year debt crisis which has hit hard the average household and has fuelled poverty rates and needs.
With the mobilization of the central and local governments, NGOs, Church charities and private donors, free meals and parties are held throughout the country during special days like Christmas.
People in need who attend the soup kitchens on a daily basis need more than a free festive meal, Eleni Katsouli, president of the City of Athens Reception and Solidarity Center, told the press during Monday's event.
They need to communicate and feel loved, she explained.
"They get food every day. We believe that a few days throughout the year they should feel that we are all members of a family. They are our beloved people and we should be together to exchange wishes and smiles," Katsouli said.
"We only wish that growth will come so that we will not be needed anymore, but as long as this crisis continues we will be by the side of people in need," she added.
By sunset on Monday the Christmas party was over and municipality employees and volunteers were cleaning up the stadium.
The City of Athens will host another festive meal on New Year's Eve in the same place.
"Best wishes to you and the entire world," Katsouli said, before waving goodbye.
By: Maria Spiliopoulou