A merry tradition: Christmas dinner free at Tennessee diner

Published 8:03 am Tuesday, December 24, 2019

ASHLAND CITY (AP) — A Tennessee diner serves up a free Christmas Day meal to anyone who walks into the restaurant and it delivers to those who otherwise can’t make the trek.

O’Brien’s Southern Diner owner Candice O’Brien Beasley knows what it’s like to go without food or to have nothing in the house on holidays, she told The Washington Post. So she started the tradition as soon she opened her Ashland City restaurant in 2013.

About 25 people, mostly widowers and truck drivers, stopped by that year, and the event has grown ever since. The southern-style dinner now starts fielding calls to reserve spots on the free meal list in October. Some patrons have become part of the volunteer team that helps people end Christmas with a hot meal. Local businesses and community members now donate most of the hams, turkeys and side dishes for the meals — which also feature mashed potatoes, green beans, pies and some of Beasley’s homemade caramel cake.

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This year, about 30 volunteers are expected to show up on Christmas morning to help box the meals and deliver them to about 300 people who don’t have anyone to celebrate with or who can’t afford a holiday dinner. The restaurant has fed as many as 500 people on Christmas Day, Beasley said.

The mother of six started peeling potatoes for the meals on Monday morning, and she’ll greet the sun on Christmas by boiling vegetables, she said.

“My entire family comes out to help, so we celebrate our Christmas either the day before or the day after,” she said. “But we’re fine with that. To us, this is Christmas.”