Christmas at Sea: Knitters Outreach to Mariners

Christmas at Sea: Knitters Outreach to Mariners

Each member of the crew receives a handknit gift, arriving in a cheerful package with handwritten cards, a greeting from the chaplain and other small Christmas gifts.


What is Christmas at Sea?

Last year, the Seaman’s Church Institute (SCI) provided holiday gifts to some 16,000 professional mariners aboard more than a thousand commercial towing vessels up and down the river system through its storied “Christmas at Sea” outreach.

All year long, over four thousand knitters across twelve time zones create beautiful hats and scarves to present to mariners working at Christmas. Each member of the crew receives a handknit gift, arriving in a cheerful package with handwritten cards, a greeting from the chaplain and other small Christmas gifts.

You Can Help

Each gift includes additional items for the mariner. For those items SCI relies on donations from supportive churches and individuals. Take a look at the list below. Most of these are found at local supermarkets or in a stash of a company’s logo-branded items. While they may seem small, such thoughtfully selected gifts make a big difference in the lives of those who receive them. If your family, organization or company can help, please e-mail

Warm the hearts of river mariners far from home at Christmas with gifts of:

  • Handmade Christmas Cards
  • Unscented, Colorless Lip Balm
  • Unscented, Hypoallergenic Hand Lotion (2-4oz bottles)
  • Sealed Packages of Holiday Sweets
  • Books or Activities like Sudoku, word searches, or playing cards
  • Facial Tissue (personal size)
  • Microwave Popcorn
  • Chewing Gum
  • DVD’s of recent, first-run movies (new or used)

All items must be in new and unused condition and in their original packaging. We cannot accept items that are used or unsealed.

Background Information on Christmas at Sea

The historic name of this volunteer program, Christmas at Sea, only partially describes the work of the people who make holidays a little warmer for mariners. While gift distribution happens during winter months, collection and creation of items happens year round, and while many gifts go to international mariners working “at sea,” thousands of gifts also go to mariners working on inland waterways here in the United States.

Donations of hand lotion, chewing gum, wrapped candy, puzzle books, microwave popcorn, lip balm and paperback books can be collected to sent to distribution centers, located on various locations along the Missouri / Ohio / Mississippi River region as well as the delta to the Gulf of Mexico. This can be a great project for your entire church community or any age group for any time of year. Don’t forget that children and youth like to knit too! Yarn and patterns are available for easy access to get started.

Founded in 1834 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church, though nondenominational in terms of its trustees, staff and service to mariners, the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York & New Jersey (SCI) is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America, promoting safety, dignity, and improved working and living conditions for millions of men and women serving in the maritime workplace.

Annually, its chaplains visit thousands of vessels in the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Oakland, and along 2,200 miles of America’s inland waterways. SCI’s maritime education facilities provide navigational training to nearly 1,600 mariners each year through simulator-based facilities located in Houston, TX and Paducah, KY. The Institute and its maritime attorneys are recognized as leading advocates for merchant mariners by the United States Government, including the US Congress, the US Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and maritime trade associations.


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