25 Dec 2010

Day has no religious significance for most - survey

1:15 pm on 25 December 2010

More New Zealanders say Christmas has no religious significance for them than those who say it does, according to a new survey.

When Research New Zealand asked 500 people in December what the Christmas period means to them, 56% said it had no religious significance and 43% said it did.

Those more inclined to say Christmas had religious significance for them were women, older people, Maori and Pacific people, and residents of the upper North Island.

The survey, conducted in the first week of December, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7%.

The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, says however that the number of people who turn out to Christmas Day church services shows New Zealanders, as a people, are not secular.

Bishop Matthews says about 1000 people attend the midnight mass on Christmas Eve at Christchurch Cathedral, and another 1000 come to various Christmas Day services.

She believes this shows New Zealanders are deeply spiritual, looking for meaning and the presence of God.

Christmas mass on the Chathams

A Catholic priest from Christchurch is conducting Christmas mass in one of the country's most remote places on Christmas Day.

Father John O'Connor, from Our Lady of Victory parish, travels to Chatham and Pitt Islands three or four times a year to hold a mass.

He is holding his second Christmas Day mass on Chatham Island, in his role as the priest of St Therese of Lisieux parish.

Father O'Connor holds a mass on the even more remote Pitt Island a few days before Christmas, in a 50-seat church built by the locals.

Meanwhile, about 500 people attended the Christmas mass at St Mary of the Angels Catholic church in central Wellington on Saturday morning.