Attendance at services 'fantastic'

The stifling heat didn't dash Christmas spirit in New Plymouth yesterday, with church leaders reporting hundreds turning up to celebrate - even a live donkey.

Father Craig Butler of St Joseph's Parish in New Plymouth said plenty of families had attended the midnight and morning Christmas services.

"They've been really lovely celebrations."

He said about 650 people filled the pews at St Joseph's on Christmas morning - where even a live donkey was in attendance.

It was the small demonstrations of love that were special at Christmas time, he said.

"A little girl got lost at the service and another girl looked after her.

"It's the little things like that.

"Christmas is about showing care for others and showing them you love them," Father Butler said.

Taranaki Cathedral Dean Jamie Allen said the cathedral had a fantastic turnout to the midnight and two morning services.

"It's wonderful to see so many people."

Christmas services were a good way of bringing people together as a community, he said.

"Christmas can be happy and joyful or a time of deep sadness and missing people profoundly.

"It can be difficult if you don't have the financial reserves required at this time of year.

"The church is a place of welcome and sanctuary for all."

He said the church was holding an event today (Boxing Day) called "Give Something Back" where people could exchange a present for a coffee.

The Reverend Kim Francis at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church said they had about 150 people through the doors in both night and morning services.

He said the formula for Christmas was simple.

"It's just about people taking the time to have special time with family and friends."

Taranaki Daily News