Posted by JC on December 25th, 2011
With our myriad children and grandchildren scattered to the winds we tend to hold our ‘traditional’ Christmas (presents and excessive over-eating and drinking) on Boxing Day, when we’ve a better chance of collecting some of them from the airport.
The main event of our Christmas Day is usually elevenses with Mimosas and muffins for all and sundry (followed by a nice lie down for much of the afternoon). Many of our friends find a couple of glasses of bubbles help to soothe the way through nerve-wracking family events, and stagger off to greet Auntie Sue with less stomach-churning dread than sobriety could offer. Others just like the idea of being mildly pissed before lunchtime. It’s noisy and fun and we never know if we’ll be catering for a dozen or fifty.
This year we volunteered to be Santa’s Helpers at the City Mission Christmas Dinner.
New Zealand’s Biggest Family Christmas Dinner has now grown to proportions that are either a) heartwarming or b) an indictment on our society. Being Christmas Day I’m not going to go into full flight about NZ’s poverty problem. I’ll save that for New Year – be warned!
This is Christmas lunch done in style. There are well-known and talented entertainers who give up their time to sing and dance throughout; there are enough treats on the tables to give every kid in Auckland a sugar fix; there’s a slap-up meal followed by pudding and Christmas cake; there is an age and gender-appropriate present for every single person.
The Mission organises it, the armed services do the catering and around 450 volunteers direct, greet, serve, select and hand out presents and then clean up – and a ton of other jobs associated with a flash mob lunch. It’s a full military operation and it runs like one. It’s also cheerful and exhausting chaos for much of the time as anything and everything can happen, usually does and is dealt to without fuss.
The Mission was expecting around 1800 people for lunch at the giant new Events Centre this year. 1800! We ended up with trestles and tables being hastily laid in every spare space and then over-flowing onto the pavement to accommodate the queues of people who started arriving before 11 o’clock and snaked for what looked like miles, patiently waiting to get in. I don’t know how many people were fed, but it has to be well over 2000.
Apart from a very few, they arrived hopeful and went away happy. They laughed and joked and thanked us with courtesy and sincerity. They were a delight.
I wanted a photo to show the scale of this fantastic Christmas Day enterprise. I can’t find one on the net yet, so meantime you’ll have to settle for one of the Christmas elves, whom I managed to snap with my phone. (Photo now added below)
Santa’s Little Helpers now have sore feet and a glass of wine in hand, and huge admiration for the City Mission and all the people who make this happen, so that no-one in Auckland has to spend Christmas alone or unfed.
Hope your Christmas Day has been a happy one. Ours has.
Well done that Elve and well done both of you
I think this a very good way of filling in the day although in my case I helped feed the hungary last week it does give a nice buzz
Congratulations on getting involved.
It may possibly be an idictment on poverty in NZ but I suspect that it is also an idictment of the terrible loneliness endured by so many; those with no families or worse those with families but who are ignored.
I think an event such as this gives many of these people a sense of community and belonging for at least one day in the year. If only it could be maintained throughout the year.
Poverty is terrible but I sometimes wonder whether loneliness and a feeling of abandonment is not worse. If one is poor but is surrounded by loved ones and friends the situation is bearable. I for one would choose poverty over loneliness. Tragically there are those who have the misfortune to experience both.
Perhaps you should be a regular visitor to the City Mission if you are not already.
Great work by all involved,an example to us all.
My niece was a volunteer, and she said it was a very rewarding experience. There were about 2200 to be fed and people were spilling outside to hastily-arranged tables and chairs; because organisers had arranged seating for 1800. What surprised her, were the number of Asians that came along; they were mainly older in age and without children.
The nice thing about the occasion, was that all the guests were very well-behaved and appreciative.
I know someone who volunteered and they were horrified that some of the so called poor helped themselves to the decorations and filled up bags with food and full 3litre bottles of drink, and then had the cheek to steel some of the ornaments. Also some of the people arrived in flash cars, obviously able to have the best in transport but couldn’t buy food for their kids.
What about the woman in the paper that took along 10 kids and then there was a couple that had been going for 10 years. I know the Mission wouldn’t turn away anyone, but some of the not so needy just took advantage of a good thing. Shame on them!
@ James: “I know someone who volunteered and they were horrified that some of the so called poor helped themselves to the decorations and filled up bags with food”.
How was that possible? The food was served out, so as not to be a scrum at the buffet tables where people could — or would — load up food in their bags.
Of course, you’ll get those who are greedy, selfish, freeloading etc., coming year-on-end with 10 in tow to be parasitic on the goodwill of the City Mission. But that’s just human nature.
@James”I know someone who volunteered and they were horrified that some of the so called poor helped themselves to the decorations and filled up bags with food and full 3litre bottles of drink, and then had the cheek to steel some of the ornaments. Also some of the people arrived in flash cars, obviously able to have the best in transport but couldn’t buy food for their kids.”
That didn’t happen did it James.