CHRISTMAS Day may be over but the real spirit of the season is still going strong, as families set aside gifts and goodies for the most needy.
Teddies, board games, toy cars and boxes of chocolates are beginning to stack up at the crib in Our Lady's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin for the annual Crosscare 'unwanted gifts' appeal.
And while the toys and novelties may be considered 'unwanted' by the donor, this could not be further from the truth for the waiting recipients.
In the boom years, lavish corporate hampers regularly turned up in the crib, according to Archdiocesan administrator Fr Damien O'Reilly.
And while the gifts coming in now in these recessionary times may be more humble, they are more welcome than ever for struggling families, he said.
"We have really seen the peak of the recession this Christmas," he said.
"The extra taxes are really kicking in now and people are really struggling. Things may be picking up in the economy at the top, but we have a long road ahead."
The cleric said many former volunteers of two or three years ago are now themselves in desperate circumstances and are queuing up at Crosscare centres seeking the aid they used to provide to others.
The agency is helping families of professionals such as architects and draughtsmen who have been out of work for more than three years now, he revealed.
"It has been a very bleak Christmas for many people," he added. However, Fr Damien said he has witnessed "enormous generosity" this Christmas.
The Crosscare pre-Christmas food appeal saw 70 tonnes of food gathered throughout the diocese to be distributed in food parcels, while an appeal for the Phillipines and Syria saw €1.3m raised in the diocese alone.
The appeal runs until January 6 and the gifts will be immediately distributed that week by Social agency Crosscare to give a boost to those who truly need it.
"For many people, these will be the only presents they will have received this Christmas," Fr Damien said.
The Crosscare appeal will take gifts up until January 6, with the Pro-Cathedral open from 9am until 5pm.