How we make Christmas special at the Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast

by Tina Hill
Chef, Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast

Tina Hill and her fellow chefs at the Marie Curie Hospice, Belfast



Christmas at the hospice is an extended event that begins long before 25 December and is planned well in advance.


Things really get started on 9 December, when the Christmas lights are switched on. Everyone – volunteers, patients and relatives – celebrates with mulled wine, shortbread and minced pies, all made by me and my team.

Between 9 and 13 December, I cook Christmas dinners for all the day patients, relatives and carers. I always make a three-course meal followed by sweets and chocolates. These dinners are accompanied by choirs, musicians and entertainment from children.

I also prepare a full Christmas dinner for staff on 12 December – another three-course meal with all the trimmings. Christmas is a very busy time at the hospice as we try to get as many people as possible home for the holidays, so it’s a great opportunity for staff to spend time together and have fun before the rush.

I’ve worked every Christmas Day since I’ve been a chef at the hospice. On the day each patient receives a present and I like to ensure that they are in the rooms before the patients wake up. They are so surprised when they wake and the present is already there; they really do not expect it. We also prepare extra gifts to have on hand in case other guests and children come to visit.

I cook a full fried breakfast for all the staff who work on Christmas Day. This helps to make it a bit special and different from any other day. Later, Christmas dinner is served to patients and their loved ones in their rooms. After that, I prepare the Christmas tea and put out mince pies, shortbread and fruit donated by a local supplier. This means people staying at the hospice can have their Christmas goodies throughout the evening.

Sometimes people ask me why I work at the hospice every Christmas. For me, Christmas is a very special time, and I really enjoy making it special for others as well. The atmosphere at the hospice is so cheerful around this time of year. Everyone is in great spirits and tries to make the occasion as special as they can. I just love being part of it.

As the countdown to the festive season continues, we are sharing with you the many things that make up a #MarieCurieChristmas and would love for you to share your #MarieCurieChristmas stories with us on Twitter and Facebook.