Getting in the Christmas spirit

I got the ole royal wave going last Saturday, taking part in the annual Santa parade down Victoria Ave.

Before we even turned the corner, we had an enthusiastic welcome.  A woman with special needs signalled to me asking if she could have a hug – of course the answer was yes and she was over the moon.

Apparently walking in the parade, without a fancy costume, carrying only a Sustainable Whanganui banner and a recycled sunflower sign, was enough to bring joy to one person.  But it continued as we rounded into the main street, with lots of children excited to just be there.

The turnout was amazing, helped by the glorious weather.  There were all ages and such a diverse crowd – even a couple of gang members with their young children tucked away at the end, encouraging the little ones to wave out.

Maybe a Christmas parade is a great leveller – it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got to spend on presents or the size of your tree and how fancy its decorations.  It’s about supporting your kids to be part of the buzz.

Some of the floats out did themselves with – our approach at Sustainable Whanganui was more low key, giving away seedlings planted into takeaway coffee cups.  The energy was contagious whether you were the incredible Batman and Robin helicopter float or at the more low tech end of the spectrum like us.

It brings me to the true purpose of Christmas – shopping.  Ok, that’s not quite true…  but for those who indulge in some shopping at Christmas time, let me share a couple of recommendations. 

The first is buy local – buy art!  There are amazing options in Whanganui for affordable, unique gifts.  I’m looking forward to visiting Whanganui’s latest studio, Rachael Garland’s Magpie, opening down by the river this Saturday.

The other way to go is to support Kaikoura.  It’s a big step away from my normal refrain of “buy local”, but there are special circumstances this year.  With Kaikoura basically cut off from the rest of the country post-earthquake, and suffering as its peak tourism season is anything but normal, why not back this clever initiative, #ShopKaikoura.

Go to www.shopkaikoura.co.nz and book time with a personal shopper, free of charge.  They will take you on a virtual tour of their retail outlets and find what you’re looking for.  It sounds like a brilliant solution for that hard-to-buy-for person or for a particularly crazy Secret Santa gift.

Finally, I can’t go past the World Vision smiles gift catalogue for Christmas.  There are a huge range of gifts, from an $8 frog, $25 school starter kit, $40 beehive, $90 toilet or a $145 mini farm.

Of course Christmas is about more than presents – for me, it’s about creating special memories with my family.  I do have a few funny family memories that involve presents though, like the year my younger sister got a Care Bear (and they’re back in the shops this year too!).  She christened it Sylvia Bogner, much to my uncle’s delight, and Sylvia has now been handed down to her daughter.

Or the memory of summer as a kid, synonymous with Christmas.  For me, it was swimming at the camping ground pool at Fitzoy Beach, then lying on the warm concrete to dry off, before having adventures in the bamboo thickets, splinters and all.  

Experiences with people, rather than spending money on gifts that don’t last (unlike Sylvia Bogner), are what matters to me at Christmas.  That’s why I’m pleased to have just discovered the “Whanganui Rocks” movement on Facebook.  There are people painting small stones and hiding them around Virginia Lake and other locations – perhaps in rebellion against the digital Pokemon craze. 

I can’t wait to get my boys out discovering – and replacing – these little treasures over the summer.  That’s the sort of thing I hope they remember about our holiday season.