Our special place at Christmas

By Andrew Bonallack

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wta191213lfpresents05.jpg Wairarapa Times-Age advertising manager Bex Johnson with the donated Christmas presents for the Salvation Army.
wta191213lfpresents05.jpg Wairarapa Times-Age advertising manager Bex Johnson with the donated Christmas presents for the Salvation Army.

WELLINGTON is going to hate me for saying this but ...

I have never felt Christmas so strongly as I do in Wairarapa.

Perhaps coming close to it was growing up in the Far North, with a small-town Christmas parade and Santa dropping sweets (at high velocity) into the main street of Rawene from the door of a low-flying Cessna. Civil aviation rules were a little different over the Hokianga in the 70s. There was no real sense of poverty and of those who were less fortunate. In those days, in those areas, everyone was poor but, at the same time, had everything they needed. And besides, I was a kid. Christmas is pretty fun when you're a kid.

Perhaps it's because now I live where I work. Wellington is a city, with a collection of disparate villages, but everything gets thrown into one huge affair that is the Wellington Santa Parade, and then we basically get on with the stress of Christmas shopping and relatives. In Wellington, people are hanging out to conclude their jobs, fight their way home, and look forward to the holiday on a beach.

In Wairarapa, we don't have the parking and logistical stresses that come with trying to get to an event in Wellington, or the Hutt, or Porirua. It is happily possible to come to park up and be dancing to jazz in Masterton's square in five minutes.

Masterton has been noteworthy for Christmas spirit. To have a continuous series of events over 12 nights in the town square - concluding tonight with carol singing - is very impressive, supported by some terrific weather.

But it's also the near non-stop generosity. The response to the Times-Age Christmas appeals, for toys and food, was (by Wellington standards) off the scale. Toys swamped our foyer. And they were decent toys.

In Wellington, the City Mission does well with support, and so do foodbanks, but here people have really dedicated themselves to their support. I've seen examples of this with people stepping up to support a child with a vandalised scooter, a mum who looked for food in dumpsters, or a woman who lost her sweet shop in Featherston.

It has been my pleasure to showcase these stories, to demonstrate how good it is to live here. Merry Christmas, and please, if you have to be a story for us these holidays, make it a warm fuzzy one.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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