Who gives a lump of coal?

16:00, Nov 15 2012
Kay Mills, Sue Popping and Brenda Scott
PERIOD DECORATIONS: Ladies of Howick Historical Village with the wreaths they are making for the ‘Tis The Season live day, from left, Kay Mills, Sue Popping and Brenda Scott.

Strawberries, seeds or maybe even a lump of coal were Christmas treats.

Nowadays one would weep if they unwrapped their presents to find these.

But for the Fencibles that was a treasured gift.

Howick Historical Village live day co-ordinator Christine Miles says Christmas in early Howick was a far cry from what it is today.

The big red man and his sleigh were nowhere to be found, nor was Rudolph or Vixen or the sack full of presents. It wasn't until the 1880s that Santa Claus and his sack of goodies flew in to society on his sleigh.

Mrs Miles says before then the day was a modest affair.


"It wasn't lavish like it is today, the kind of presents they gave were ribbons for people's hair".

"They still had all their jobs to do on Christmas day, it wasn't like you just stuck something in the microwave, or banged something in the oven, or pulled out the barbecue.

"You still had to milk the cow, and light the fire, and boil the water."

She says not only was Christmas a hard day's work but it was also a reflective time for the Fencibles.

"It would have been really when they stopped and noticed that they were here in New Zealand and that their neighbours were their family now not their mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers."

Today stomachs are full of roasts and Christmas pudding, and children are gifted the latest gadgets.

But if you were Charles Lush and it was December 24, 1855, your dad gave you a strawberry.

Mrs Miles says this weekend's village live day ‘Tis The Season will be the best way for people to gain an understanding of the Fencible Christmas and appreciate what we have now.

The different houses around the village will be decorated by volunteers and each one will be themed.

"Like one cottage their theme is wreaths and they are busy making all different kinds of wreaths mostly using the resources they would have had in Victorian times."

The live day is on November 18 from 10am to 4pm at the Howick Historical Village. On December 8 there's Twilight Magic from 6pm to 9pm where the village will come to life under candlelight and carols.

The Howick Historical Village is at Bells Rd, Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga.

Normal admission fees apply. Call 576 9506 or visit fencible.org.nz for more information.

Eastern Courier