About 2000 people filled a sparkling new waterfront venue for the Auckland City Mission Christmas Dinner yesterday, with 450 volunteers rushing to set up extra tables for a growing queue outside.
City Missioner Diane Robertson said she was thrilled with the response.
"We have more people than the 1700 seats. But everybody will get in. Everybody will have lunch."
About a third of the diners were children, making for what the missioner called "the world's best family Christmas".
More than 130 people queued outside the Viaduct Events Centre trying to get in, after grace was said by the Anglican Bishop of Auckland, Ross Bay.
Ham, chicken, roast potatoes and kumara, beans and carrots were on the menu, followed by jelly, icecream and Christmas cake for dessert. Every diner got a gift.
The Scanlan family of Glen Innes sat quietly at a table seating a dozen.
Mrs Moana Scanlan said: "We've been coming for over a decade ... It's a Christmas tradition ..."
Cheybene and her six children came from Mangere on the bus.
"It's beautiful ... it's our second year. They sure looked after us. If we had not come we would have sandwiches or something at home."
At the next table, Karen had brought 10 children from Papakura. "This is our first time here.
"Those kids are very happy ... I'm sure the table was packed with chocolate."
Elsewhere, travellers without families and those who couldn't afford to feed themselves were offered a free non-traditional Christmas dinner.
Swamy Akuthota, owner of the Satya South Indian restaurants, served their most popular meals to a mixed crowd at their five restaurants around central Auckland.
Mr Akuthota said they were able to serve up to 1200 meals - all of which were mild.
"So everyone is able to eat it."
It was the first time Mr Akuthota had offered the free meals. He said he wanted to help those who found themselves alone on Christmas or who couldn't afford a proper meal.
The mostly fine weather across the country meant festivities moved outside, with beaches, backyard cricket and barbecues favourite activities.
Rose Darnley, 4, was at the crease during a game of beach cricket at Mission Bay, while hundreds flocked to Cornwall Park where Walker Iosefa cooked mussels and shrimp kebabs for his family.
The hot weather coaxed many into the water, including a group of European backpackers at St Clair Beach in Dunedin - complete with santa hats, a Christmas tree and glasses of bubbly.By Wayne Thompson Email Wayne