Community feast 'comes from the heart'
Blenheim turned on a Kiwi Christmas Day yesterday, perfect for a barbecue then relaxing in the shade with a cold drink.
Philimon Charley, from Vanuatu, has worked in Marlborough vineyards for five years and said going to a Christmas barbecue in Renwick helped ease homesickness.
"It feels like home," said Mr Charley, who is a chief on Tanna Island.
His group of workers, who are mostly men, had enjoyed sleeping late and giving one another presents before heading to lunch in the Renwick Presbyterian Church grounds, he said.
In Vanuatu, Christmas gatherings ran into New Year but these contract workers would be back in the vineyard on Friday, Mr Charley said.
Among the 47 people sharing lunch yesterday were Pat and Don Cromarty, of Blenheim, who remembered more traditional Christmas dinners in their younger days of roast lamb with new potatoes and fresh peas straight out of the garden.
The couple, who turn 90 next year said in war years their parents made presents including toy trucks from wood and metal, a tent from calf-meal sacks and smocked frocks from flour sacks.
At the Elim Church in Blenheim yesterday, Raupo Cafe Restaurant apprentice chef Jarod Udy presided over a Christmas dinner carvery.
Raupo staff cooked the food delivered by the church. The church has been hosting a community dinner on Christmas Day for 22 years.
Meal co-ordinator Kevin Dickens said organisers wanted to make sure no one had to spend Christmas Day home alone.
About 130 people took up the invitation to share the celebration.
Ripeka Currie, of Picton, donated meat for the meal then turned up to share it with friends.
"This comes from the heart," Mrs Currie said. "Today is a day of giving what we can."
One man who had been in Blenheim for only two weeks said he turned up at the church for a Christmas service but found dinner being served instead.
Another man at the same table said celebrating with his family was stressful and the dinner was a good alternative, while a woman said she enjoyed the break from her rest home.
Police said it had been a quiet day with no calls to serious incidents. The only fire callout yesterday was to a domestic rubbish fire in Giffords Rd.
The Marlborough Express