Merry Christmas from the Grinch

The Lovell-Smith family celebrate Christmas, 1915. Kate Sheppard is in the back row, second from left (click for image credit)

The Lovell-Smith family celebrate Christmas, 1915. Kate Sheppard is in the back row, second from left (click for image credit)

Hohoho, Merry Christmas everyone!

It be that time of the year again, when the pōhutukawa starts to flower, the barbecue comes out of the shed, the misty rain pours in and the shops fill up with a mixture of cheap gifts and cheaper tinsel.

As you can see, my attitude towards Christmas is possibly not all it should be – there does seem to be an incongruity here in having the office Grinch write the Merry Christmas blog. However, what I do love about Christmas is the enthusiasm that some people embrace it with – giant reindeer, flashing sparkling lights, window displays where everything that can possibly have a Santa hat is wearing a Santa hat. The oddest one of these I ever saw was a mannequin in a pharmacy shop in Timaru one year. She had one leg, a very short white uniform, suspenders and a Santa hat. Not sure what she was advertising – the mind boggles.

Santa parades are another event where colour, music and a general air of slight insanity comes out to play. These have been a part of children’s Christmases since the 1930s, such as the Hay’s Christmas parade, from a collection of Christmas parade images put together by Christchurch City Libraries. Their web page also includes a number of the traditional ‘children on Santa’s knee’ photographs, something we haven’t yet got on Te Ara.

Farmers (the department store) have been responsible for Christmas parades in Auckland for 78 years now (according to their website). They also used to own what many people referred to as ‘the creepy Santa’ with his winking eye and beckoning finger. This Santa was installed on the Farmers’ building from 1960. Eventually he ended up gracing the Whitcoulls building on Queen Street, and undergoing the giant fibreglass equivalent of plastic surgery to remove the eye and finger. He was even named the world’s creepiest Christmas ornament in 2011!

Even without the winking eye, however, not everyone is convinced about Santa. In this clip Santa is introduced to some newly arrived Tokelauan migrants, who have just moved to a small settlement near Te Puke. (Santa and his horse charge in around 1:41.)

What else – oh yes, the dreaded Christmas muzak. Enthusiasm doesn’t help with this one. Our new offices are opposite Midland Park, in central Wellington, which turns out to be a popular place for buskers and the Salvation Army, among others. Now if they sounded like the Tongan Methodist Choir that might be a different story, but as it is … there is a lot of stomping around the office some afternoons. At least I can escape to the newly re-opened National Library, whose Christmas tree this year is a very appropriate green stepladder covered in fairy lights.

The 'Campbell Choral' on Campbell Island, 1959 (click for image credit)

The 'Campbell Choral' on Campbell Island, 1959 (click for image credit)

I’ll finish with one of my favourite images, for many reasons including the lovely printed fabric in the background, the Campbell Choral on Campbell Island in 1959. Not totally sure this was a Christmas choir, but it seems possible (the collection it’s from also features a Merry Christmas sign and a Merry Christmas pudding). We thought of the Campbell Island singers as a possible image for the Ministry Christmas card one year, but it didn’t fly. Not quite sure why, as it illustrates both culture (singing) and heritage (Kiwi men entertaining themselves on isolated windswept islands, with a bit of cross-dressing to liven things up).

From the Christmas Grinch of Te Ara, may you all have a happy holiday with a surfeit of good food, a minimum of family dramas, and (with any luck) some much-needed sunshine. See you again in January.

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