A crew member on an oceangoing cargo ship enjoys a Christmas gift of a hand-knitted hat and scarf provided by Christmas at Sea, which has been providing warm, hand-crafted items to mariners for 125 years. Photo: Christmas at SeaP
Christmas at Sea knitting ministry has brought warm clothes and cheer to seafarers for 125 years
By Melodie Woerman
[Episcopal News Service] On Christmas Day, thousands of crew members on oceangoing cargo ships and boats on U.S. waterways will receive gifts of handmade hats and scarves through Christmas at Sea, a program of the Seamen’s Church Institute, which has roots in The Episcopal Church.
The program is celebrating its 125th year of service to the maritime community. It began in 1898 when a group of women wanted to supply knitted items and ditty bags to those on ships during the Spanish-American War. It is the oldest and longest continuously running charter knitting program in the United States.
It takes more than a thousand volunteers to create all the items provided to modern seafarers, Joanne Bartosik, Seamen’s Church Institute’s senior manager of development and Christmas at Sea, told Episcopal News Service. In 2022, volunteers made a record 28,139 items – knitted or crocheted hats, scarves and cowls, as well as cloth ditty bags – and they were provided to about 11,000 seafarers. The donations came from 932 individuals as well as people in 127 groups, and from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and several countries in Europe.
All these people are helping express gratitude for the work that people on ships perform, Bartosik said. “Mariners are an invisible work force,” she said, noting that 90% of the goods Americans use come over water.
For most of its history, Christmas at Sea only served those on ocean ships that docked in the Port of New York and New Jersey. These mariners serve for eight or nine months at a time, Bartosik said, and come mainly from the Philippines, as well as from across Asia and some Eastern European countries.
READ MORE HERE