25 Dec 2010

Christmas celebrated from Raoul Island to Scott Base

6:00 pm on 25 December 2010

Christmas is being celebrated throughout the country, from Raoul Island 1000km to the north, to Scott Base 4000km to the south.

A record number of people attended the 16th annual Auckland City Mission Christmas dinner - the largest in the country - at the Vector Arena.

It was a massive undertaking, with about 500 volunteers and several months' preparation.

Four hundred kilograms of chicken and ham, 500 kilograms of potatoes and kumara, and 150 kilograms of beans and carrots were cooked for the lunch.

Ice-cream, fruit salad, jelly and of course Christmas cake were also part of the meal.

The City Missioner, Diane Robertson, says a wide range of guests attended, including homeless and elderly people who otherwise would have been alone on Christmas Day.

Salvation Army lunch in Wellington

In Wellington, 130 people turned up for the Christmas lunch put on by the Salvation Army at the Hope Centre in Newtown. Chicken, ham, vegetables, salads, pavlova and Christmas pudding were served.

The centre's director, Lieutenant Dale McFarlane, says the guests, in their early 20s to late 70s, included regulars who use the Salvation Army drop-in centre and welfare services.

The Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown, also attended.

Ms McFarlane says if it wasn't for such an event, many of the guests would miss out on Christmas altogether.

Members of the Jewish community delivered meals to the homes of those who could not make it to the centre.

Christmas dinner with ice

A long way from the Vector Arena, eight Defence Force personnel are celebrating Christmas in the perpetual summer sunshine of the Antarctic.

The men are on a five-month deployment to Scott Base.

Leading weapons technician Mike Jamieson, from the Navy, is a radio operator who keeps in touch with teams out on the ice.

He says that on Christmas Day the Scott Basers can attend church services at nearby McMurdo Sound. Gifts have been flown in from New Zealand, the chefs are preparing duck for dinner, and dinner and gifts will also be taken out to a team on the ice.

Santa stops off at remote island

At the northernmost outpost of the country, four DoC officers and four volunteers on Raoul Island will be having all the trimmings, including Secret Santa gifts - many made on the island from materials there.

The eight take daily weather readings and work to restore the island to a pest-free, weed-free bird and animal sanctuary.

Team leader Jess Clark says the Raoul volcano gives them the occasional shake but the environment, the weather and the inquisitive, unafraid bird life is idyllic for lovers of the outdoors.

Basic fare for country's prisoners

The Corrections Department is talking down any chance of lavish Christmas fare making it to the nation's prison dining tables on 25 December.

Just $4.50 a head has been budgeted to feed inmates at each of the country's 20 prisons.

The day's main meal, lunch, consists of chicken with gravy, vegetables, two slices of watermelon and a piece of bread. Dinner is cold meat and salads.

More than 200 Christchurch Men's Prison inmates had to spend Christmas Day away from friends and family, in Auckland and Otago jails, because four months after the Canterbury earthquake their cells are not fit for use.

Zoo animals not forgotten

Other species have not been forgotten on Christmas Day. Auckland Zoo is closed for the day but 18 keepers are on duty ensuring that many of the zoo's 700 animals get special presents, such as food treats.

The oldest chimpanzee, Janie, who's 57, has treats wrapped in paper packages around her enclosure, and also has an artificial Christmas tree with other morsels of food in it.

The lions get five times their usual daily feed. Having gorged themselves on half a horse or cow, they're expected to sleep it off for the rest of the day.