18 Dec 2018

Surviving Christmas: 'It doesn't have to be a stuff buying fest'

6:03 pm on 18 December 2018

The festive season can be stressful at the best of times.

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New Plymouth Food Bank manager Sharon Wills (third from left) and volunteers pack up this year's pre-Christmas collection. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

And according to Taranaki Retreat coordinator Jamie Allen for those people down on their luck, suffering from ill-health or missing a loved one it could be especially difficult.

The retreat is a community-based sanctuary nestled on farmland in the shadows of Maunga Taranaki.

Its mission is to provide a safe place for families and individuals during tough times.

Mr Allen - who is a former police officer and former Dean of the Taranaki Cathedral - said Christmas period was a busy time for the retreat.

"There's absolutely no doubt that this time of the year is a really challenging time for a lot of people and if this year isn't the challenging time there's been another in the past that was the really challenging year and all that can be triggered again just by the rolling of the seasons."

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Jamie Allen said Christmas can be a stressful time and people need to slow down and catch up with loved ones rather than rushing around buying gifts. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Allen said this Christmas he was passing on the same advice given to him after being pulled over by a traffic officer recently - take your foot off the gas.

"There's a frenetic absurd pace that we're living at and some of it just has to be let go. We've got to let go of some of the stresses that we're carrying. It doesn't have to be a stuff buying fest.

"I'd go back to that police officer's advice there and just say you need to slow down a little.

Mr Allen said rather than rushing around buying gifts, stop by for a cuppa or gather at a watering hole with mates and share your time instead.

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St Joseph's Thursday community meal had a Christmas theme this week too. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

New Plymouth Food Bank manager Sharon Wills was packing up this year's pre-Christmas collection with an army of volunteers when RNZ came to visit.

Ms Wills said the food bank would feel the affects of Christmas over-indulgence later in January.

"The run into Christmas is pretty normal. It doesn't go crazy nothing like that. It's after Christmas once the kids start to go back to school.

"People get their bills, credit card all that sort of stuff and you've spent the money in advance and it hits them.

"So end of January through February, March it's just crazy and that's the aftermath of Christmas."

Ms Wills' advice was to scale back expectations.

"Be prepared, I mean you know it's coming, plan for it and don't go overboard, you don't need to have a hot dinner in the middle of the day.

"You don't need all the bells and whistles. Just have fun with your family and be prepared for it. Go to the beach."

The New Plymouth Community Christmas Charitable Trust puts on a Christmas lunch for about 200 people at St Joseph's Church.

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Ken Davies reckons you're guaranteed a good feed at the St Joseph's Christmas lunch. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Its secretary Ken Davies had dropped in at the church to visit its regular Thursday evening community meal.

Mr Davies said if all else fails people down on their luck should come and see him on Christmas Day.

He said they would guaranteed good company and plenty to eat.

"There'll be chicken ... ham, coleslaw, hot potatoes, mixed vegetables and then there's always icecream and fruit salad for dessert."

There was also always a large number of Christmas cakes, "it's a good feed," he said.

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Tony McGill said St Joseph's Christmas Day lunch brings together people who are all the same boat. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Diner Tony McGill reckoned he would be taking up Mr Davies' invitation.

"It's absolutely fantastic mainly because it brings people together who are all the same, you know what I mean?

"They are all in the same boat. Everyone is finding it hard, mate.

"And that's what it's all about. I reckon Christmas is to get together with people and enjoy music, happy times, full tummies. You leave happy."

The consequences for Mr McGill of not turning up for Christmas lunch at St Joseph's did not bare contemplating.

"I'd be sitting at home eating Christmas pie by myself, mate. You know what I mean?"