Thousands of people are embracing the offer of a free, hearty meal and good company at City Mission lunches in the main centres today.
Organisers have prepared for their biggest turnouts yet in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, both in terms of guests and volunteers.
At a marquee set up in Christchurch East School, city missioner Matthew Mark said up to 1200 guests could show up - the majority being people the mission worked with throughout the year.
"There's also a number of people from the community who are just lonely. We become their family for the day and that's a really lovely thing," he said.
He said the mission's day to day job was giving hope to people and that didn't stop on Christmas.
"Today's an opportunity for us to have a good number of our whānau come through and just enjoy the festivities," he said.
Preparations began weeks ago - and today 300 volunteers were dishing up 100 legs of lamb, 80 hams and 150 kilograms of potatoes - plus 100 pavlovas, and 80kg of berries.
Children at the event could have their faces painted, and be on the receiving end of free, donated presents.
Simon Grant, who was helping out for a second year, said it was an enjoyable way to start Christmas Day.
"Just seeing the smiles when they come in and sit down and see all the gifts on the tables and the chairs - it's just the faces, really," he said.
Auckland's event - the biggest in the country - is at the Cloud on the waterfront, where about 2000 people are expected.
Wellington's 'Everybody's Christmas Lunch' is at Newtown School.