Bethlehem is the place to celebrate Christmas - and not just for Mary and Joseph.

Up to 15,000 people are expected to head to the Tauranga suburb on Saturday for the annual A Night Before Christmas, which is a free community concert celebrating its 21st birthday, complete with fireworks.

Event director Luisa Schroder said the milestone reflected how popular the party was with the public, and how much it had grown over the years. The fact it was safe, family-friendly and free also helped, she said.

Organisers were planning for up to 15,000 people to attend this year. Last year, there were about 10,000 people.


"We still have the demand to be organising something like this, in a place called Bethlehem. It's pretty unique," Shroder said.

"The fact we're in a place called Bethlehem at Christmas time is the most common feedback we receive."

A puffer stage has been erected at Bethlehem College ready for this weekend's free concert. Photo/John Borren
A puffer stage has been erected at Bethlehem College ready for this weekend's free concert. Photo/John Borren

Schroder said the community was at the core of everything they did.

Schroder said organisers were buoyed by the community funding given to them to help keep the event going each year. Doing something for the community, by the community, was at the core of the entire event.

Schroder said there were about 200 volunteers helping to run the event, from performers to camera operators and administration.

"That's really what drives us as organisers. And it's about giving young people in our community the chance to be apart of something of such high calibre. A lot of people have used it as a bit of a platform for their careers."

Singer Elijah Taula has volunteered at the event previously and this year has starred in Auckland's Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park and he will star in Saturday's event.

Headliner band Late 80s Mercedes "who will definitely get people on their feet" will also perform.

But it's not all sing songs and dancing. The traditional story of Christmas will be re-enacted "in a creative way" to remind people of the significance of the event and volunteers will be collected for Good Neighbour Trust.

Last year, the community raised $6000 which went straight to the charity.

Schroder recommended people bring picnic blankets, chairs and candles.

The evening will finish with a fireworks display.

Homecoming performance a highlight for Elijah

Performing in front of family and friends is something close to Elijah Taula's heart.

The 19-year-old has just finished performing at Coca-Cola's Christmas in the Park in Auckland and is preparing to return to Tauranga's A Night Before Christmas in Bethlehem this weekend.

Taula said performing to a home crowd was much more welcoming than most audiences.

"You don't have to worry 'oh flip, are they going to like us? Are they not going to like us?' It's a really diverse audience. There's lots of families there, young kids, teenagers and some oldies too," he said.

Taula often performed with his band Ah Jeez which featured in last year's A Night Before Christmas, or his sister Leilani Taula. The two siblings came into the spotlight in 2015 on New Zealand X Factor.

He has spent the past year studying jazz production and communications at The University of Auckland. Taula said his dream would be to perform music full-time but planned to also study teaching in things don't go quite to plan.

Taula said Tauranga's A Night Before Christmas was a highlight he looked forward to returning to. He will be performing again with Ah Jeez.

"Coming back home to do what I love and do it to people who I know and that I've grown up with, and my family out there. And if I can help make someone's Christmas a little bit more enjoyable as well, adding to the atmosphere, then that makes me happy."