Giving new Kiwis a warm welcome

By Eva Bradley

It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside to see the Mayor walk into the council chambers.

I'm not going to write about Kate and her bump. I'm just not.

Everything that can be said has been said and will be repeated in every conceivable way (excuse the pun) over the coming months.

By due date I'll be as worn out with her pregnancy as she will be, and even more grinchy about the topic than I am about The Hobbit. But "that" topic aside, my thought for the week still resides in the royal realm and is shamelessly patriarchal and pro-Monarchy.

Last night I went to a citizenship ceremony.

After years Down Under, my British friend (who can list the creation of two delightful young New Zealanders among her many talents) swore allegiance to New Zealand and, more interestingly, the Queen of New Zealand.

It was quite quaint seeing a British citizen pledge loyalty to "our" Queen, and although an alarming number of applicants opted for the vow which left out the bit about God, I found listening to the pledge a pleasant reminder of the basic and timeless tenets of our society: God and Crown.

In a time when tradition and respect for the one on high and the one slightly below him on the big gold throne have all but been forgotten, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside to see the Mayor walk into the council chambers in a fancy red robe and gold chains, and see a collection of people who cared enough about this country to stand up and pledge allegiance to it (and pay $500 for the privilege).

But amid all of the formality, what I loved most was something that happened just before all of this. With a late flight delaying the Mayor and a large collection of ratepayers eager to get home to their dinner, the long and deafening silence was spontaneously filled by a city councillor who decided on a whim to leap up, grab the guitar belonging to the head of the attending Maori cultural group, and start singing.

Before long, the whole gathering of 80-odd people was joining in with a throaty round of that inimitable American song, Snoopy's Christmas.

It was a delightful foil for the more sombre notes of God Defend New Zealand and the arrival of the Mayor just as "the Baron cried out "Merry Christmas, my friend." could not have been timed better.

Although the event itself was heavy with tradition, solemnity and a general vibe of gravitas, the singing beforehand was a reminder of why New Zealand is the country so many people from elsewhere want to belong to.

We can stand on ceremony and wear our Sunday best when we need to, but at heart our colonial spirit still beats strong and we remain the sort of nation where a hearty sing-along works just as well in the council chambers as it does around a bonfire or barbecue.

Interestingly, most of the new citizens were British, proving that the pull to the colonies remains strong despite conditions of entry being almost as tough these days as they were for Cook and his crew back in 1769, although muskets and taiaha have long since been replaced by layer upon layer of equally vicious red tape.

The ceremony reminded me where we came from and where we belong and it reignited a spark of patriotism that had dimmed and gone dark without my even being aware of it.

It put our constant obsession with the royals and their fertility into context. But, alas, probably not quite enough to make the magazine fodder for the next six months till due date any more appealing to me.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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