By Jodi Bryant

We asked Northland identities to share their favourite Christmas memories and how they are celebrating this year.

Sheryl Mai – Whangarei Mayor

Christmas in the Mai household held many rituals, including Christmas stockings on the end of our beds. They always contained a clicker, an orange, some nuts, sometimes a chocolate Santa, and I recall one year a box of coloured pencils and a colouring book. We were under strict instructions to stay in bed until the adults were awake, breakfast first – THEN presents. It always seemed a frustratingly-long wait. The 'present fairy' was selected each year and their job was to allocate one gift at a time from under the tree, starting with the oldest to the youngest. We always had to sincerely thank the giver for their thoughtful gift.


Mum always made and iced the Christmas cake, Christmas crackers were on the table, and the roast chicken wishbone would be put on the windowsill to dry. We always had a fresh pine Christmas tree which was ritually decorated with coloured glass baubles, tinsel and crepe-paper streamers. I still have the boxes of baubles, and some of the old decorations that are now dearly treasured memories of Christmas' past. Feasting, afternoon naps, sunshine, beach holidays, cherries and Muscatel raisins made their annual appearance – yum!

Kelvin Cruickshank – Medium

The best Xmas I can recall was when my grandfather and grandmother took me tenting at the Black Jacks, which is a beach in the Coromandel. It was back in the days when you could tent anywhere and the tent was an old canvas one with a big pole in the middle. We would catch fish off the beach and play in the stream under the most stunning Pohutukawa tree, swim, fish and be kids. I even got my first LEGO packet from Santa that year... and I still have it…

For me, I believe that celebrating the year that was is simply all about reflection. Reflecting on the hard stuff and realising it was all for the better. After all, it is what it is but, at the time, we can never see it. To accept those hard times and grow from them. Of course, the positives of the year or highlights, as I like to call them, are reflected with joy and accomplishment. To be proud for the gift that has helped others and for the things I've learned along the way.

Celebrating the highs and lows constitutes spending quality time with my family and goin' fishin'.

Laurel Devenie – Shortland Street Actress

Xmas has always been a very special family time for us. We used to share Xmas with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandma. It was either in Whangarei, Gisborne, Devonport or Tolaga Bay. Piles of presents, lots of food. My family has always had a big emphasis on making things or op shop gifts and I remember my cousins and I made a giant family cook book for everyone one year. We used to have a Xmas concert where everyone had to do something - sing a song, read a poem. My family has strong British ties and we were the Xmas pudding, roast turkey kind of people with ham and eggs on homemade bread for breakfast. One year my uncle had adopted an injured magpie 'Maggie' who helped us unwrap all the presents. Those were great times and our family cared a lot about being together and sharing good food and nice things and catching up on the past year.

These days they are a little calmer and we haven't had a big one for a while as the cousins and I grew up and got our own partners and their families. At the moment, my idea of a brilliant Xmas is a very quiet day with morning presents and yummy breakfasts and a good old garden rolling family lunch followed by backyard cricket with anyone in the mood. There are so few moments in our lives that we let ourselves be peaceful and quiet for a day and that's the most important thing about Christmas - hanging with your people and remembering the ones that have gone. Grandma Ray and my aunt Penny are always in my mind reminding me to do the brandy butter or prepare the strawberries. I will try and give local, homemade or second-hand gifts to everyone this year. A new tradition my mum and I have started is having a little moment in the morning where we come together and each have space to share a few things about the past year - important turning points or challenging moments. This has been a nice way of reflecting together and hearing where everyone is at.


Luke Bird 'Birdman' – TV Personality

My favourite Christmas memory would have to be the last Xmas we had with my Granma. She was the pinnacle of our Whanau and taught me how to lay a table, create the 'feel' for the day, how to make her famous boysenberry trifle and how to drink baileys on the rocks. Everything we did was how she brought everyone up so the BEST summer holiday was our last one with her.

This year, the BIRDS are flapping back to the nest. Northland, NZ, is where it's at for this larger-than-life sequinned BIRD! But, in particular, Whangarei is where this BIRD will be nesting for the summer holidays. It's where my family live, are from and where I was brought up. My nest is always a busy one but also very fun too! It'll be me, my MammaBIRD (Mum), cousins, aunty, uncles, nephews - Widdle Man, Cocoa Puff and Honey Puff...Family, it's what drives us.

Our family are a large one, we like different things, we all have different but FAB personalities and we all seem to be related hahaha BUT the one thing we all do, and we all make sure that it's a priority, is to visit the cemetery on Xmas day. Some people find that a little strange but we LOVE it! It allows us to make more memories and to revisit some GRAND memories of the past... everyone gets included in this tradition, even the ones who are no longer here!

Willow-Jean Prime – Labour List MP

Our whanau love Christmas! I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas growing up and now we are creating that magic for our daughters.


We have lots of traditions. My absolute favourite memory is the feeling of the Christmas stocking at the end of my bed - heavy on my feet, the noise of the presents being rubbed together and the smell of the summer fruit bowl. I would stay up as long as I could - exquisite anticipation! Now my sister and I do it for each other because my mum reckons we're adults now haha.

This is our first Christmas without my dad - our Santa, reindeer-maker and best Christmas cracker joke teller so it is going to be hard. I know though there will still be stockings, Christmas lunch with Dion's nan in Karetu, mum's trifle, aunty Paula's pudding, swimming and hopefully an afternoon nap (the gift I really, really want!)