A CHRISTMAS message from the Mayor of Taunton Deane, Terry Hall:

"FAMILIES across Taunton Deane will be celebrating Christmas with their loved ones, enjoying time together at this special time of year.

However, thousands of miles away, members of 40 Commando Royal Marines will be far from their families and friends, so I hope we will remember them and their service to our country at this time of year.

There are many members of our community who are away, serving their country in Afghanistan and around the world, and there are also many different nationalities working in our area who will be spending the festive period far from home and family.

It’s important that the hand of friendship is extended to all of them.

The Mayoress and I will be spending Christmas Day visiting various venues, including Musgrove Park Hospital, the emergency services, the Samaritans and nursing homes.

It’s important for us all to remember that as well as the happiness of Christmas it can also be a time of great sadness for many families, and it’s a time to think about other people who may be feeling lonely or in need of friendship and support.

I’d encourage everyone to remember elderly neighbours, relatives and friends – just dropping in for a chat can make a real difference to someone who may be on their own.

This has been a memorable year for Taunton Deane – we celebrated the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and welcomed the Olympic Torch to Taunton in May. We also joined the rest of the nation in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Next year, we look forward to welcoming the first child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge into the world.

We have much to look back on with pride and much to look forward to in 2013.

A very happy Christmas to you all."