The countdown is on to Christmas.
For most of us that means making sure the presents are bought, the kitchen cupboards are packed with indulgent treats and plans are in place for having a good time with family and friends.
It can be frantic, and hard work, but it is a special time of the year when we step away from the normal routine and focus on our loved ones.
And there are few better places to spend Christmas than in the Capital with some of the best festive entertainment and food and drink to be found anywhere in the world.
But it isn’t everybody who gets to enjoy the season of goodwill.
Walk through the city centre on any December evening and you will see people bedding down for the night with only a sleeping bag to protect against the bitter cold.
And behind the closed doors of homes across the regions there are many more people facing lonely or difficult times with little to look forward to. That is why the Evening News is teaming up with Hibs, Hearts, NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government once again this year to run our Edinburgh Cheer Christmas campaign.
Together – with your support – we aim to make Edinburgh and the Lothians the Capital of Kindness. Last year the football clubs opened up their stadiums on Christmas Day for two very special festive dinners.
Nearly 300 people who might otherwise have been on their own or had less to look forward to than other people were royally fed and entertained at Easter Road and Tynecastle by our Edinburgh Cheer volunteers.
This year Hearts and Hibs will be extending the same fantastic hospitality to their special guests. And we have lots more ideas for how to spread the spirit of Christmas as far and wide as we can.
Our appeal has been launched today by Heart of Midlothian FC chairwoman and chief executive Ann Budge, Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster and minister for public health, sport and wellbeing Joe Fitzpatrick among other businesses and charity partners.
Ms Budge said the club was “delighted” to be part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign, which aims to help people all over the Capital in need of smiles and support this festive season.
She said: “The Hearts family, through Big Hearts, is delighted to continue as lead partner on this unique city-wide campaign and welcome new organisations on board to once again make Edinburgh the kindest city over Christmas.
“The festive season can be even more challenging for individuals and families affected by social isolation and by coming all together in Edinburgh Cheer, we hope to inspire many people to get involved and make a positive difference with us.”
Meanwhile Ms Dempster spoke of her pride at the city’s two football clubs coming together for such a worthy cause.
She said: “Edinburgh Cheer campaign has grown each year and brings all kinds of people from the city together, including both football clubs which I think gives it a focal point.
“On the pitch both teams have an intense sporting rivalry. Off the pitch we do a lot of things together and this campaign is a fantastic example of two clubs coming together, setting aside the small differences we have and looking at all the things we’ve got in common including the city we live in and the problems the city faces.”
It was a view echoed by Joe Fitzpatrick, who said: “When two of Edinburgh’s biggest – so called – ‘rivals’ put their differences aside for Christmas, it sends such a positive message to the rest of us, and should encourage the Edinburgh public to go out and help create a real festive community spirit this year. It just goes to show you how football can be a powerful force for good in Scotland.”
For NHS Lothian, the Edinburgh Cheer campaign offers the chance to tackle head on issues with wellbeing which arise each festive season.
Tim Davison, NHS Lothian chief executive, said: “We have been involved with Edinburgh Cheer since its beginning, and are delighted to see how much it has grown over the past two years. This can be a particularly difficult time of year for those who are struggling but there is so much we all can do collectively to help spread a little cheer. NHS Lothian is proud to be part of a citywide initiative to improve public health and wellbeing that recognises that we can all play our part.”
In addition to events laid on by the two clubs, the Edinburgh Cheer campaign encourages the public to help spread a little kindness in whatever way works for you.
Whether it’s inviting someone to lunch or donating items to your local foodbank, the campaign pledges are designed to show how easily we can all give something back.
Euan McGrory, Evening News editor, said: “It is exciting to see so many of the city’s great institutions coming together to help our local communities.
“Please join our team in any way you can and see what a difference we can make together.”