25 Dec 2013

City missions put on Christmas feasts

7:46 pm on 25 December 2013

Hundreds of people have descended on the Auckland waterfront for the annual City Mission Christmas lunch, the biggest in the country.

Tables are readied for the Auckland City Mission lunch.

Tables are readied for the Auckland City Mission lunch. Photo: RNZ

Auckland City Mission chefs and volunteers have prepared some 240kg of chicken, 300kg of ham and 700kg of vegetables for the meal at at the Viaduct Events Centre.

About 2500 people can be catered for and and the mission was expecting a full house. All guests also get a present.

The organisation also planned to hand out nearly 3000 food parcels, about 10% more than last year.

City Missioner Diane Robertson said the school holiday period is particularly stressful for low-income families already stretched to the limit.

"If you have children home all day, they're eating more. We see families who cope for most of the year but come this particular period, over the Christmas period into the New Year, struggle."

Ms Robertson said the mission needs to raise more than $1 million so it can distribute food parcels for the rest of the holidays and throughout 2014.

Christchurch City Mission provided lunch for up to 700 people at Christchurch East School, with a menu which included ham and lamb and festive favourites such as pavlova.

City Missioner Michael Gorman says the numbers were up slightly this year, with about 650 people turning out in 2012.

Mr Gorman says it was lovely and hot during the early afternoon, and the volunteers were able to take the sides of the marquee down.

He says there were several people who did not want to join all those in the tent itself but the mission served them food anyway, and everyone appeared to have a good time.

About 150 people were expected to attend the Lion's Room at the Inn Christmas lunch at Wellington's Aro Valley Community Centre. The event has been running for 50 years and Lion's Club volunteers also deliver meals to those who cannot make it to the community centre.

Pews of many churches have also been full on Christmas morning. About 400 people filled St John's in the City Presbyterian church in Wellington.

Routeburn Track feast

Holidaymakers on the Routeburn Track are having a traditional Christmas dinner thanks to a warden who carried all the festive supplies to the hut in his backpack.

Guests at Lake McKenzie Hut are treated to carols by candlelight and a feast of roast turkey, vegetables, mince pies, Christmas pudding and beer.

In addition to his normal ranger duties, warden Clive Rule is preparing Christmas dinner for 50 people.

After carrying in the supplies to the hut in his backpack he spends a spends a full day baking a batch of 400 mince pies, cooks the turkey and the pudding, and pays for most of it himself. Mr Rule said he does it because he loves the Christmas season and meeting new people.

Hangi cooked despite frozen ground

New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan have battled the the cold to turn on a Christmas Eve hangi for their military counterparts in Kabul.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team left Bamyan in April this year but 27 New Zealand defence personnel remain in and around Kabul.

Lieutenant Colonel Chris Kelly said minus 10 degree temperatures freeze the ground too hard to dig a hangi pit, but the New Zealanders scrambled to put together an above-ground hangi cooker to turn on a taste of home.

In all, 284 Defence Force personnel are serving overseas, including in East Timor, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, South Korea, Antarctica, South Sudan and at sea.

Jam donation helps bind community

A jar of homemade jam is proving to be a symbol of community spirit this Christmas for people living in earthquake-damaged homes in the Marlborough town of Seddon.

After August's 6.6 magnitude earthquake at Lake Grassmere, many are unable to spend Christmas in their own homes, and are living in temporary or damaged accommodation.

One woman turned her hand to homemade jelly and donated some of the jars to the local parish, asking the Anglican minister Dawn Daunauda to distribute them.

Ms Daunauda says it's a great example of how much people care for each other.

Ms Daunauda says taking a jar along to people's homes has given her the perfect excuse to be able to check up on those she knows might be struggling to cope over Christmas.