We are spending the holidays in a flat in Christchurch. Christchurch is a city in transition, as it strives to recover from the devastating earthquake almost 2 years ago. But this city and its residents are indomitable, optimistic, and fun! We’ve had the best time here. And just because there is tons of construction doesn’t mean that they don’t continue their traditions.
One of Christchurch’s longstanding traditions is Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve. This used to take place in Victoria Square, which was damaged in the quake. Since then, it has migrated to other parks in the city and this year it was at Latimer Square. Latimer Square is a short walk from our flat, so we decided to go and check it out. And we’re so glad we did. It really got us in the Christmas spirit!
There was a huge crowd. As it got darker, everyone lit up their candles. The band began to play and the choir began to sing…and everyone joined in! We sang 22 carols in all, many traditional and many fun. But my personal favorite was a New Zealand folk song, Te Harinui. Te Harinui means Great Joy in Maori and is one of the most iconic New Zealand carols. It is a song about the first Christmas service held in New Zealand and to listen to everyone sing a song so close to their hearts was very moving.
After the carols were over, we wandered over to the other side of the park, where there was a huge tree of lights, with several red phone booths below it. Those phones linked up directly to Santa via the Santa Line. We went into one of the booths and phoned in our wish to Santa. Each wish helps to light up the tree. So after we told Santa our wish we watched as a stream of light traveled out of our phone booth and up the tree. It was really lovely. There were families and friends everywhere enjoying the tree and the last moments of the night before Christmas is upon us.
From there we headed back home for a bit of wine and chocolate before heading to bed.