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Interesting NZ Christmas Facts

Santa goes to the Chathams

Santa swopped his traditional reindeer and sleigh for a four-engined TEAL Solent and flew up to the Chatham Islands in December 1951. More than 400 of the islands’ 500 inhabitants cheered him hilariously as he stepped ashore from a launch in Te Whanga Lagoon, a huge sack of toys over his shoulder.

In the three and a quarter hours he distributed good cheer, the islanders – all in paper hats provided by TEAL – consumed several bottles of whisky and soft drinks, numerous cartons of strawberries, 48 dozen chocolate ice creams, and 60 dozen ice cream blocks, and 10 gallons of ice cream, estimated to produce 450 ices. The ice cream was donated by a Christchurch firm and carried free by TEAL.

From two brightly decorated Christmas trees and a number of bran tubs on the beach each of the islands’ children received a present from the hands of Father Christmas himself. Never before has Te Whanga Lagoon witnessed so many hand-shakings, expressions of good will and head-pattings.

The only incident of the flight down from Wellington occurred when a sheep dog, bored with his crate, broke out of it to investigate his surroundings in a passenger compartment which had been converted for the carriage of innumerable crates of bananas, sausages and other goods. Evans Bay Traffic Officer Allan Valois soon made him more comfortable.

Of the 30 passengers on the Awatere only five were islanders.

Like George and David Richie who were going to stay with Dudley Ousey, a fellow pupil of the Hereworth School, Havelock North, many were going to the island for a holiday.

The happiest couple on the flying-boat were the well-known footballer, Russell Hohaia, of Taranaki, and Myra Tuuta, of Big Bush, who were going to the Chathams to be married from Myra’s home.

'Sticky Beak the kiwi' Christmas song

Many traditional Christmas songs have been adapted for a New Zealand audience and conditions. In 1981 Kingi Ihaka wrote 'A pukeko in a ponga tree', a version of the popular song 'The twelve days of Christmas'. The Kiwi version has become a firm favourite in schools and often appears on New Zealand Christmas song compilations. Some hymns, such as 'Marie te po' ('Silent night'), have been translated into Maori to give them a New Zealand flavour.

One of the most popular New Zealand Christmas songs of the 1960s was 'Sticky Beak the kiwi', recorded by Kiwi Records. Gisborne songwriter and folk singer Bob Edwards wrote the words in the hope of producing a Christmas song especially for New Zealand children. Another local, Neil Roberts, set the words to music. Fourteen year old Gisborne schoolgirl Julie Nelson was selected to be the vocalist and recorded the hit song in 1961. She was backed by local group the Satins and the Whanganui dance band, the Don Bell Orchestra. The version available on this site was produced by staff at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage in 2007.

The lyrics read like a manifesto of workers’ rights. The Aotearoa branch of the Santa Claus Distribution Union made it perfectly clear who was in charge once the sleigh arrived in this part of the world.

Now Sticky Beak the kiwi, that bird from way down under
He's caused a great commotion and it isn't any wonder
He's notified old Santa Claus to notify the deer
That he will pull the Christmas sleigh in the southern hemisphere.
Lots of toys for girls and boys load the Christmas sleigh
He will take the starlight trail along the Milky Way.
Hear the laughing children as they shout aloud with glee:
'Sticky Beak, Sticky Beak, be sure to call on me.'

Now every little kiwi, and every kangaroo, too,
The wallaby, the weka, and the platypus and emu,
Have made themselves a Christmas tree with stars and shining bright,
So Sticky Beak will see the way to guide the sleigh tonight.

Now Sticky Beak the kiwi, that Maori-land dictator,
Will not allow Rudolph's nose this side of the equator
So when you hear the sleigh bells ring you'll know that he's the boss,
And Sticky Beak will pull the sleigh beneath the Southern Cross.

Watch the Song Here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRcJ554cMY8

Samuel Marsden's First Sermon

Russell Clark’s painting of Samuel Marsden preaching on Christmas Day 1814 at Hohi (Oihi) Bay in the Bay of Islands is how many New Zealanders have visualised the first Christmas church service in this country.

Clark’s work – painted to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the event – shows Marsden preaching from a makeshift pulpit to a large group of Māori and Europeans. Ruatara, the Ngāpuhi leader Marsden had met in Port Jackson (Sydney), translated the sermon. He can be seen to Marsden’s right. This service marked the beginnings of the Christian mission to New Zealand, but was it the first Christmas service in the country?

On Christmas Day 1769, the French explorer Jean François Marie de Surville and his crew were in Doubtless Bay in the Far North. On board the St Jean Baptiste was a Dominican priest, Father Paul-Antoine de Villefeix. While no records of the event survive, it seems very likely that such an important Catholic festival would have been marked by a Mass on board the ship. But in the absence of hard evidence, New Zealand’s English colonial traditions have favoured Marsden’s claim to this first.

Abel Tasman’s New Zealand Christmas

The Christian origins of Christmas meant that before contact with Europeans, the celebration had no place in the calendar of Aotearoa. The first celebration of Christmas in New Zealand coincided with Abel Tasman’s voyage of discovery in 1642. Things did not get off to a good start.

On 19 December 1642 the Dutch East India Company ships Heemskerck and Zeehaen anchored in Mohua Golden Bay, home of Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri iwi. Clearly the locals felt threatened by these strange vessels and people. One of Tasman’s small boats was rammed by a waka as it was passing between the two ships. Four of Tasman’s men were killed. Several Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri may have been hit when the Dutch opened fire on them.

Tasman saw no reason to hang around. After naming the place Moordenaers Baij (Murderers’ Bay) he immediately set sail. His expedition reached the Manawatū coast of the North Island before crossing the entrance of Cook Strait and anchoring east of Stephens and D’Urville islands. Here the crew encountered what many Wellingtonians have become used to at Christmas time – poor weather. While sheltering from a storm, the Dutch enjoyed the first Christmas dinner in New Zealand – freshly killed pork from the ship’s menagerie washed down with extra rations of wine.

Cook’s ‘goose’

The next celebration of Christmas in New Zealand occurred during James Cook’s first voyage in 1769. The crew of the Endeavour marked the occasion by feasting on ‘Goose pye’ for their Christmas dinner while battling heavy seas off the top of the North Island. There were no geese in sight, so the crew had to improvise – using the magnificent gannet that had been shot in preparation for the feast by the ship’s noted botanist, Joseph Banks.

Apparently, the Endeavour’s crew spent Boxing Day ‘nursing hangovers’, launching a tradition that now has a long history in New Zealand.

Yorkshire goose pie

As a Yorkshireman, Cook might well have insisted on this ‘Recipe for an Economical Goose Pie’, which was copied from a 1791 cookery book and dedicated to the Hon. Lady Wourton, whom the author served as housekeeper.

Take a large fat goose, split it down the back and take all the bone out; bone a turkey and two ducks the same way; season them with pepper and salt, with six woodcocks. Lay the goose down on a clean dish with the skin side down and lay the turkey into the goose with the skin down.

Have ready a large hare, cleaned well; cut in pieces and put in the oven with 1 lb of butter, ¼ oz mace, beat fine; the same of white pepper, and salt to taste, till the meat will leave the bones, and scum off the gravy; pick the meat clean off and beat it in a marble mortar very fine with the butter you took off, and lay it on the turkey.

Take 24 lbs of the finest flour, 6 lbs of butter, ½ lb of fresh rendered suet, make the paste thick and raise the pie oval; roll out a lump of paste and cut it in vine leaves or what form you will; rub the pie with yolks of eggs and put your ornaments on the wall, then turn your hare, turkey and goose upside down and lay them on your pie with the ducks at each end and the woodcocks at the sides. Make your lid pretty thick and put it on.

You may make flowers, or the shape of folds in the paste on the lid, and make a hole in the middle of the lid. The walls of the pie are to be 1½ ins. thicker than the lid. Rub it all over with the yolks of eggs and bind it round with three-fold paper and the same over the top. It will take 4 hours baking in a brown bread oven. When it comes out, melt 2 lbs of butter in the gravy that came from the hare and pour it through the ton-dish (funnel). Close it well up and let it be 8 or 10 days before you cut into it. If you send it any distance, close up the hole in the middle with cold butter to prevent the air from getting in.

Banks’s gannet pie probably failed to make the grade as a real goose pie. If this is the recipe for the economical version, it is hard to imagine the Michelin-starred model. Do not attempt this at home We do not advise attempting to copy the crew of the Endeavour by filling your Christmas pie with endangered or protected wildlife.

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elocal Digital Edition – December 2023 (#272)

elocal Digital Edition
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