Families packed out a marquee for the City Mission's Christmas lunch, and sat down to a traditional Christmas spread including ham, salads and, of course, pavlova.
City Missioner Michael Gorman said it was always ''a bit of a guess'' how many people would attend, but he had planned for about 650.
''Each year we hope that our friends will come and share this day with us,'' he said to the guests.
''We think it's important that we get together, that people aren't lonely.''
Gorman even speculated that, per head of population, Christchurch had a bigger turnout than Auckland.
''So good on you Christchurch.''
Bishop Victoria Matthews arrived in time to say grace for the midday meal. She said it was her sixth year attending the Christmas lunch.
''It's one of the highlights of my year.''
Matthews then spent time wandering between tables speaking with those who had come for the meal.
Kevin Cross has volunteered at the mission lunch for 31 years.
'They helped me out when I needed it,'' he said.
''And now I'm giving my time to help them out.'' He said it was the smiles on everyone's faces that brought him back year after year.
Sisters Jaana Hill and Sarona Samuelu spent their first Christmas volunteering with the mission lunch.
Hill said she had wanted to come for years, and this year got a work colleague to set it up for her. Samuelu arrived last night from Hamilton, and when she heard what Hill had planned decided to come along too.
''We always have a really amazing Christmas with our family,'' Hill said, so she wanted to share that with others.
''Especially with the earthquake, you do see that not everyone has that.''
Santa was on hand to give out gifts for the children, including soft toys and board games.
The mission helpers passed out extra parcels to families containing extra ham, salad makings, biscuits and chips.
Gorman said it was difficult for families when they left the lunch.
''It can be a bit flat. You come here and get fed, then go home.''
He said sending everyone off with a bit extra was a ''nice way to finish it off''.
There were even ham bones for the dogs waiting patiently outside for their families.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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