Solitude banished with enough festive cheer to go round

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013

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Every Sunday for a decade Bill Butler has been cooking up a feed for those who need one in the hall behind St Mary's Basilica in Invercargill.

He also cooks one up on Christmas Day for those same people, and others who have nowhere else to go or no-one to share Christmas with.

"It will be 11 years in January since I started cooking," he said as about 30 people tucked into a much welcomed Christmas meal yesterday.

"It's important for people to have a place to come and spend Christmas."

Murray Campbell and Sean McKenna were grateful for a chance to have a Christmas meal surrounded by others.

The warmth of the hall on a chilly and wet Christmas Day was also welcomed, Mr Campbell said.

As the passionfruit pavlovas were about to come around, Mr McKenna said the day was more than just about the food.

"We get to sing hymns and reflect on the true spirit of Christmas," he said.

The pair, along with the other guests, said the volunteers and Father Tom Keyes from St Theresa's Church did a great job.

Father Tom said the free meal was for anybody who had nowhere to go and was funded by St Vincent de Paul.

The usual free Sunday meal was given a dose of festive cheer with decorations, crackers, sweets and presents for everyone.

"We don't want anyone stuck on their own for Christmas," he said.

Meanwhile, many more fortunate Invercargill families and residents chose to let someone else do the cooking on Christmas Day.

Nearly 150 people booked in for the Christmas buffet, with all the trimmings, at the Kelvin Hotel while hundreds more let the staff at the Ascot Park Hotel prepare and serve their Christmas lunch.

The Brazier family were having their Christmas lunch at the Kelvin Hotel for the third time.

There would be twelve of the clan tucking into the buffet with a 13th member serving up the ham and turkey.

Mum Katy said she had a daughter working at the restaurant on Christmas Day.

Level One Restaurant manager Dianne Mitchell said an increasing number of people were having their Christmas lunch outside of the traditional family home.

"I think some people enjoy having everything done for them so they can relax," she said.

"Plus there are no dishes to wash up."

neil.ratley@stl.co.nz

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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