A merry crowd of 2800 people filled the tables at the Viaduct Events Centre today for the Auckland City Mission's annual Christmas dinner.

Another 150 who could not get in were fed a packaged roast dinner on picnic tables outside.

City Missioner Diane Robertson said the 550 volunteers made for two days of food preparation a "well oiled machine. It was absolutely smooth sailing and staff did a brilliant job."

She said there were some new faces among the families who came in previous years.


The mission also brought along its clients who were homeless or in support programmes for drug and alcohol problems.

Cooking by volunteers began at 6am and other came to decorate the tables with balloons, crackers and gifts to be distributed after the meal by Santa and helpers.

After an hour of entertainment the first course was brought out - roast chicken or ham, with gravy and roast kumara, gourmet potatoes, beans and carrots.

Dessert was icecream, jelly and fruit and cake.

The event is New Zealand largest Christmas lunch.

This month the mission has been trying to raise $900,000 for running Christmas activities, including distributing food hampers and 25,000 presents to low-income families in Auckland.