Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Of Christmas Past in New Zealand

Book Review : "A New Zealand Christmas: three centuries of Kiwi celebrations from the Alexander Turnbull Library" by Sarah Ell.

Here's a few interesting facts from this beautifully illustrated history of Christmas in Aotearoa :

  • In 1769 artist Sydney Parkinson along with the scientists, officers and seamen of Captain James Cook's Endeavour voyage were the first Europeans to observe and record the flowers of what would become known as New Zealand's Christmas tree, the pohutukawa. 
  • In 1865 Benjamin Leopold Farjeon wrote one of the first novels published in New Zealand "Shadows on the snow: a Christmas story"
  • In the 1880s artist John Philemon Backhouse painted beautiful greeting cards depicting our NZ Manuka in flower.
  • In 1893, women were granted the right to vote in local body and parliamentary elections Political cartoonist, William Blomfield's response was to publish a satirical cartoon of "Some good old Christmas customs reversed by the female franchise"  in the "New Zealand Observer and Free Lance" on 23rd December 1893.
Skipping forward a few years... 

  • In 1913 8 year old Edna Crompton wrote a letter to "Father Christmas" asking for 1. a thumb Bible 2. a dolls head 3. a box of good paints 4. a nice picture book 5. a small dolls house 6. some orange, apples and nuts 7. a box of chocolates 8. a good note book 9. a pretty money box 10. a toy and in closing "Now I must close a loving friend Edna" and one last comment "don't bring German things" 

This book is a most fascinating look at Christmases past in NZ and how world events influenced how we looked at Christmas and the reason for the season.


Available to borrow from the 2nd Floor, NZ History & Travel 993z ELL