Saturday, 3 January 2015

S 43.31.13 E 172.38.15 Christmas in Christchurch

We first visited Christchurch in November 2009, just ten months before the first of three major earthquakes that devastated the city, particularly the CBD.  Over the next five years, we listened to progress reports of the city and its residents as they worked at “reclaiming” their city.  Like many others, it seemed an act of support to return to Christchurch if we were going to be in New Zealand, even if there is still a lot of work to do.  As it happened, we arrived December 22 and spent our first Christmas away from home at a lovely spot just on the outer edge of the CBD (Terra Vive Lodge).

Everyone in Christchurch has a story of how the earthquakes have affected them.  Some lost houses or businesses.  Some talked of celebrating when businesses started coming back into the city center and when the transitional Anglican Cathedral was opened less than a year ago.  Others talked about some of the crazy things happening (one of the most interesting from my point of view is the fight between the Anglican Diocese and the people of Christchurch over whether the Cathedral should be restored or torn down and replaced).  Everyone we talked to included the reminder that everywhere there are empty lots, there used to be buildings.  Business advertising includes the location they used to be and where they are now. Construction is going at fever pitch.
Memorial to the 176 people killed in the February 2011 quake

We participated in Christmas eve Eucharist "in the celtic style".

Artistically, Christchurch is doing some interesting things to deal with the disaster.  In empty lots or on damaged buildings “temporary art” has been installed.  There is a committee tasked to make the decision of which historic building is next to be restored and where can the funding come from.  And everywhere you see giraffes that have been personalized – to symbolize Christchurch “standing tall”. The temporary container mall just off Cathederal Square has proven so successful that there is talk that perhaps it should stay a bit longer as a celebration of community spirit.

The chair and the floor under it is a mosaic of broken crockery donated
by people, often with touching stories

Botanic gardens giraffe in seasonal headware

Christmas tree of pointsettias.

On our last day in Christchurch, we walked past the cricket pitch where (we learned later while watching sports at the local pub) a major international test match was being played between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.  The same two teams will play their first game in Christchurch in February for Cricket World Cup.  I remember a small news item about this (cricket doesn’t have the same glamour in Canada as it does elsewhere), where New Zealand took the gutsy decision to keep Christchurch in the schedule, even though the cricket field was far from ready and indeed a lot of the city’s infrastructure wasn’t either.  Front page news that the field was up to international standards and that the visiting team was well cared for, even getting to experience a bit of an earthquake the day they arrived.  Oh, yes, and the Black Caps (NZ) trounced the visiting team.

It was a bit odd planning for a Christmas away from home (first in 40 years of marriage) and in a place where the weather was so unChristmaslike.  Like I had done for Kyle, Kati and Kier for their first Christmas away from home*, I made a small portable Advent Calendar that traveled in my backpack for seven months before coming out on display in Tasmania.  I also was on the look out for anything that might be a Christmas decoration that could come home with us as a reminder of 2014.  Australia doesn’t particularly decorate for the festive season, and what we did see was snowmen, reindeer, Santa in warm winter clothes....  In Australia, the six white boomers are out of fashion and everybody is more interested in summer vacation, the beach, and what to cook on the Barbie.

Decorations in Christchurch were more subtle than in North America, but they were there.  And, with Kiwi pride in their own icons, there were kiwis in festive attire, koru in sparkly splendour, and hand made wooden ornaments (made of local wood and sometimes paua).  We found festive goodies in the store; and given our common ancestors from the UK, many were familiar treats.  The only thing that seemed to be missing was the roast turkey and stuffing.  Ah well, we were treated to an absolutely decadent luncheon of special New Zealand goodies, complete with Christmas crackers.
Everything you need.  Christmas tree (bamboo) with ornament,
crackers, advent calendar, Christmas oranges (a wee smaller with seeds
and sweeter grown in New Zealand not Japan), port, and a few
things from Santa.

One of the two ornaments I bought at the container mall from a
young fellow who made them with his dad.  This is rimu and is
the rose window from the Cathedral that didn't survive the
February 2011 earthquake

Christmas tree with a kiwi in it.

It was called mince pie, but it was as close to tortiere as
I could find.

I tried my hand at pavlova.  Probably all the Aussies and Kiwis are
cringing at this attempt.

Santa Cal even bought a present

Aussie humour

Leather and silver bangle

All dressed up for Christmas lunch
at Bloody Mary's

Leftovers suitably wrapped.  the waitresses were
competing to create the most goose like parcel.
Personally, this looks pretty peacock like.

Thanks, Christchurch, for hosting two Canadians for Christmas and making us feel welcome.  Now, on to exploring New Zealand’s South Island on our year of travel.

* Everytime I write “first Christmas away from home”, in my head I hear Stan Roger’s song of the same name.  Yes, we listened to it a few times because of course I also packed a few dozen favourite Christmas tunes on my old iphone.

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