MORE than 200 charities are set to benefit from funds raised during the annual Black Santa sit-out at St Anne's Cathedral.
Dean Stephen Forde yesterday marked his first Christmas as Black Santa as he took up his place on the steps of the Belfast cathedral.
The annual event will see funds collected for local charities and organisations offering support and opportunities to those in need in the community. A small portion will go towards charities working overseas.
The Black Santa tradition was established in 1976 by Dean Sammy Crooks who stood outside the cathedral in the days before Christmas urging people to 'give and let live' to support the sick, hungry and poor.
His distinctive black Anglican clerical cloak quickly earned him the nickname Black Santa, with the tradition now in its 42nd year.
The Very Rev Forde is undertaking his first sit-out and has urged people to contribute whatever they can to the 2018 appeal.
"I know that the people of Belfast and far beyond see making a gift to Black Santa as a special part of preparing for Christmas," he said.
"Over the past 42 years, parents and children, work colleagues and passers-by, people of faith and people of goodwill have reached into their pockets to place their pennies and their pounds into the famous wooden barrel.
"As Christmas is not about what we get for ourselves, it is at heart about what we give and what is given."
Live music, the cathedral choir and craft makers are also joining efforts to raise funds for the Black Santa appeal by holding an event at St Anne's on Thursday.
Black Santa’s Christmas Bazaar will see the best of local art, design and craft as well as music fill the cathedral from 5.30pm to 1pm, with all proceeds raised to be donated to the Black Santa appeal.