Shared dinner best part of the day
Spending Christmas Day alone would be awful, Blenheim widower Alan Liang says.
Mr Liang's wife died nine years ago and they had no children.
Originally from Dunedin, the 79-year-old has no family in Blenheim so he was thankful for the free Christmas lunch at the Elim Church yesterday.
Not only was the food "top class" but he enjoyed watching everyone having a great time.
"It's the sight of seeing everybody enjoying themselves," Mr Liang said. "People from all creeds."
Elim Church associate pastor Alf Millar said there were about 160 diners yesterday, including volunteers and a lot of vineyard workers from Vanuatu.
"I was talking to a couple of German tourists as well."
The Elim Church, on Burleigh Rd, had bought most of the food but people and businesses in the community had helped, Mr Millar said.
"Some people leave financial donations after dinner but they don't have to. It's free."
Blenheim couple Graham and Philis Robson were on their own this Christmas.
Their three children and three grandchildren were in Wellington, Christchurch and England, and they were going to meet up with family in Christchurch on Thursday or Friday.
The free lunch at the Elim Church meant not having to deal with a house full of leftovers, Mr Robson said.
They had been to the Christmas lunch two years ago and loved it.
Lunch organiser Sharon Hunt said the idea behind the free meal was the same as when it started 21 years ago.
"No-one need spend Christmas alone," she said. "If you don't want to [be alone], you have somewhere to come."
She praised the efforts of Raupo owner and chef Marcel Rood, who had cooked the Christmas feast.
"It gets easier each year thanks to Marcel." He might never be allowed to leave Blenheim, Ms Hunt said.
"Everybody is just happy to be here. All the guests look happy and relaxed and the volunteers seem to be enjoying their day as well."
- The Marlborough Express