Have you spent a Christmas in Auckland?
I haven’t, but our friend Jen is currently over there on a holiday and sent us back some photos and stories to give us a taste of an Auckland city Christmas!
Christmas in Auckland city
What about Santa?
If you had been to Auckland prior to 2020, you may have noticed Santa in Queen St. He was pretty hard to miss as he was 18 metres tall and weighted 5 tonne!
The huge Santa, with a winking eye and curling finger, welcomed Kiwi shoppers to the city for about 60 Years (minus a few years in the Manukau Shopping Centre during the 1990s). However, he was retired at the end of Christmas 2019. The fibreglass Santa and two reindeer was purchased for Wanaka’s National Transport and Toy Museum – at the princely sum of $1! But the cost and effort to transport him 1500km to the south of the South Island must have been huge.
Have you ever seen Auckland’s huge Santa? If so, did you think he was creepy?
Love Santa letter types
There are twelve different Love Santa letters each year, grouped into five letter types you can chose between. So, each child gets a letter to suit them – and that’s before the letters are edited and personalised.
All Love Santa letters include a laugh, positive messages and references to leaving Santa a snack and Christmas traditions (like elves, reindeer, boomers, and the North Pole). However, as different age groups have different perspectives so we write letter types accordingly.
|Letter type||Who it will delight|
|Baby||Aimed at new babies (ie under one year) and it has comments like ‘Merry first Christmas”|
|Child||This letter suits most children, even if they may suit another letter type!|
|Tween||Aimed at 9-12 year olds, with comments about being a bit older and still enjoying Christmas|
|Teen||Aimed at 13-18 year olds with slightly older content|
|Adult||Aimed at those aged 18 or older, with references about it being a busy season|
These are just guidelines, of course. For example, an nineteen year old with Downs Syndrome may be happy with a teen or tween letter and a mature 12 year could relate to a teen letter.
Note that each letter type has at least one alternative so that siblings will get different letters for the truly personalised delight. And Love Santa letters are written every year so they are different every time.
Every letter type is personalised with the same sort of data, although baby letters often include less (for example, a newborn doesn’t have a favourite colour!)
Six degrees of Santa
Movie length: 89 minutes
Directed by Michael Kennedy
A single mum helps in her family business and runs a Christmas gift program called Six Degrees of Santa. But should she keep Six degrees anonymous or not? And how will she keep the family business going?
My Christmas movie review
For starters, Six Degrees of Santa (the program) is a gift program where someone prepares a gift and gives it anonymously to a stranger or peripheral acquaintance (like your postie, the man you see on the train every day, the lollipop lady). That person enjoys the present for a day or two then also passes it on. This continues until the sixth person who gets to keep the present. Ideally, the present has special meaning to the original Santa, like a Christmas movie you love watching or favourite game or puzzle.
So the movie starts with Harper (Kathryn Davis) explaining this program on a video for her website. Then she and her daughter pack their six degree boxes.
Six degrees of Santa (the movie) is a romance, and the ending is not exactly a surprise! But how they get there is less obvious.
Local entrepreneur and internet guru, Jason Sparks (Steve Lund), runs a number of enterprises, including one Harper used to work for. Currently, is focus is the Sparkle tree – a ready decorated Christmas tree you can order online. Harper doesn’t like the Sparkle tree as it is too commercialised and interferes with the tradition of choosing a tree from a farm. While I understand her sentiment, I think the Sparkle trees are pretty and no more commercial than artificial trees from any department store.
Jason ends up being the recipient of Harper’s Santa gift, and is so touched by the gift that he wants to meet the Secret Santa. Not wanting to tell him, but wanting to make a business deal with Jason, Harper gets a friend to pretend to e the relevant Secret Santa.
From there, we move through confusions, developing friendships, Christmas cooking, respectful and caring friendships between Harper and her ex, a wrapping competition, and social media marketing. We also hear of such happy stories where the six degrees of Santa reaches many parts of the world. And Harper struggles between keeping Six Degrees pure and simple, and sharing it more widely.
The credits do refer to some incorrect names! Look out for Harper and Dani – or their alternative names, Steph and Shani!
Would I recommend watching Six Degrees of Santa? It’s a sweet little movie that involves a book about an elf, the magic of Christmas, Christmas trees, Santa in a wrapping presents competition, and a lovely mother, daughter and granddaughter family. So, yes it is worth watching as a feel good movie.
by Karen Kinsgbury
Simon & Schuster, London, 2017
Age group: late teens – adult
Format: 256 page softcover
The different twist of this Christmas book caught my attention – I thought it would be interesting and perhaps thought provoking to see how the Baxter family copes with family patriarch John inviting a woman who received his daughter’s heart to the family Christmas Eve gathering.
A close knit family are preparing for a huge family Christmas, but are confronted with a guest who brings old memories and pains to light. Add in a girl racked with guilt over her sister’s accident, and there is a drama of family and personal relationships to be explored.
My review of A Baxter family Christmas
Interestingly, this is actually the 24th book about the Baxter family! The book starts with a few pages filling you on the background of various family members, including lists of children and their ages (I found this list very handy a number of times!) This is done so you can read this book as it is without having touched any of the previous books. It helps to have that information in mind before reading the book as the author didn’t have to distract with explanations within the story. If, however, you have read some Baxter stories before and don’t like spoilers, I strongly suggest you continue reading the books in order before reading this book as I suspect there are some shockers.
I liked that the introduction to the book gives a very clear summary of the main characters- I referred back to it a few times for relationships and ages! The Baxter family is quite a clan, with John, his children and then their children all having a part in the story. I found myself drawn into their family as I read this book. And I wanted to know more about the heart donor – the sister/mother/daughter killed in a car accident some time before this book is set.
There were a couple of details that seemed unrealistic and detracted form the story – for instance, an hour long drive seemed to happen in about 20 minutes during a snow storm!
Kingsbury is obviously a Christian and enjoys her faith. Her main characters show their religious beliefs through frequent mentions of prayers, God’s plan, miracles, loving Jesus, and wanting others to experience the love and peace they find in their faith. I am not used to such open religion references in novels, especially with talk of wanting a sign of faith fro
m God during a first date! I know some people will appreciate that feature of this book, while others will roll their eyes and lose interest. I will just say that their faith is clearly there but doesn’t feel preachy to me as the reader so don’t give up on the book just for this factor.
Would I recommend A Baxter family Christmas? Not a simple answer for this one… If you dislike religious books and prefer adventurous books, then this is not a book for you! However, if you like a warm story about people who care (for each other and the world) enjoying Christmas, then yes I do recommend this book. It is nicely written, has a satisfying ending and leaves you feeling good.
The ride ~ a Christmas parable
Movie length: 30 minutes
Directed by Dallas Jenkins
A bored taxi driver is given an extra run on Christmas Eve and becomes concerned about his passenger.
My Christmas movie review
There is a simplicity to this movie. The cast has literally five people, of which only two are central to the plot. Very little of the movie is outside of the taxi. It is refreshing to not switch scenes so frequently and to have no extravagant homes or effects.
The taxi driver (Kirk B.R. Woller) is totally disengaged with his first passenger (a very annoying man!) but then tries to make conversation with his next passenger (Brad Heller). This change was a bit of a jerk to my thinking, although obviously necessary to continue the plot.
While I don’t know Chicago so had no idea there was a river or bridge at the requested intersection, the taxi driver became suspicious of the passenger much quicker than I did – he could have given terse answers because he was tired, had a bad day, been an introvert, or just didn’t like nosy taxi drivers! However, once he did get suspicious that his passenger was intending suicide, the driver worked hard to prolong the trip and engage the man.
I could understand the clunky way the driver prolongs the drive. He was not generally a chatty or personable person so he found it challenging to engage this man in his taxi. Again, it would have been annoying and unbelievable if he had been able to do this smoothly. I think this is why the movie works – it is simple and real.
So why it is sub-titled a Christmas Eve parable? I took it as there would be a moral or maybe a story that somehow parallelled another, well known story (like the tortoise and the hare or the boy who cried wolf). It was a moral of helping others and the love of parents superseding mistakes, and I guess it could be a version of the prodigal son. Yet it didn’t feel like a parable to me – which is not a bad thing in a movie!
Is it a Christmas movie? Not really. It was set on Christmas Eve while the taxi driver’s wife and daughters were at a church service. A few things they drove past were covered in Christmas lights. Otherwise, it was not really about Christmas (but no less so than Die Hard!)
I came across this movie in the movie section of a streaming channel and took it at face value. There was clearly a Christian element to the driver’s actions but I didn’t feel it was a religious movie. However, I discovered it is from Christiaan Movies – it mentions church and grace, but otherwise leaves the action to tell the message without preaching religion.
Would I recommend watching this Christmas movie? As a cheerful Christmas story with Santa and tinsel, this certainly fails! But it is more thought provoking and gives a meaningful story that is enjoyable. So, yes I recommend this for adults.
Jane’s Christmas devilled eggs
Living In Australia, I know it can be hot and humid around our Christmas time.
For me, Christmas is a celebration. A time to come together with family and celebrate one of the most important moments on the calendar. So I like my Christmas outfits to reflect on that.
It’s only when you spend your first Christmas away from home or you no longer have a loved one around you to share the special day. That’s when you realise how differently each family does things.
Wearing Christmas outfits
You rarely wear a Xmas outfit so why not embrace the one time of year when it’s ok to be that extra special without judgement!
I think that costumes are not just for the young, but the young at heart and making kids laugh each morning of December is a great way to start their day!
by Val McDermid
Sphere, London, 2020
Age group: late teens – adult
Format: 256 page softcover
Whilst browsing a 5 storey bookshop in London (yes, genuinely 5 stories – it was fantastic!), I spotted this collection of short stories by an author I like. And I’m glad I grabbed it (despite having to lug it around in our travels!)
There is no single plot, given it is a “chilling short story collection”, but there is a definite common thread of murder in the dozen stories by Val McDermid.
I have read a few of McDermid’s books in the past, and this collection was a chance to see her skills beyond a crime series.
My review of Christmas is murder
Lets start out by saying I prefer novels over short stories as a rule – I like the additional depth of story and that it lasts longer. Yet I really liked this collection and, for the most part, I think each story was complete – a couple of the stories could be extended into longer versions, but they all work.
I was pleased to see how many different ways Christmas was incorporated into the stories – the murder of Santa (spoiler alert – he is ok by the end), Christmas as one celebration in a series, hearing of a crime on Christmas Day, and more. However, the last half of the book has nothing to do with Christmas which surprised me.
Most of the stories are stand alone, but there is one with Tony Hill and Carol Jordan (from McDermid’s Wire in the Blood series) and one with Sherlock Holmes and Watson, plus Mrs Hudson.
This is most definitely an adult book – the murders and adult themes included are not child friendly. Having said that, it is not a particularly gory or graphic book.
Would I recommend it? Yes, I really enjoyed Christmas is murder, and am very happy to recommend it to others. Not for children though 😉
Here’s an idea for spreading out the fun on Christmas Day by making the presents last all day!
Our family has always had a rule of one present at a time. This way we all see what each other gets and the reactions to the gifts we give, plus it makes it last longer than two minutes!
After all the anticipation of the day, why not make present opening (and the joy) go even longer?
When opening presents in the morning, keep at least one present each aside. These presents can then be opened at the end of the day when you’re back home or the visitors have gone.
If you have a small family gathering at home, then hand out presents 3 or 4 times during the day instead of all at once in the morning. It will build appreciation of each gift as well as make the day more exciting.
December is speeding along so we have another 5 days of Christmas elf antics to share 🙂
Christmas elves are up to more antics…
Here is another week’s worth of antics from Tinkles and Ginger in the lead up to Christmas. Hopefully they can inspire your elves to have fun, too, or give you and your family some smiles!
An elf picnic
In the morning, we found Ginger and her elf friend sitting in the front yard for a picnic. With lots of fruit, cup cakes, and drinks available, they were eating a pie and a sausage roll. By the time the kids got home from school, both elves were enjoying an icy pole.
Smiley biscuits – or elves?
Smile! We now have a plate of smiley gingerbread biscuits – well, mostly smiling anyway – and an elf or two hiding amongst the biscuits with their own smiley faces!
Christmas elf antics include a zipline!
Tinkles managed to tie a zipline from the top of the Christmas tree to a window catch to create herself a zipline today!
Floating in the Gup X
With the warmer weather, Tinkles must have got a bit hot – that or she heard the Octoalert and responded – as we found her in the Octonauts’ Gup X floating in our (green tiled) pool!
A sleigh photo shoot
Ginger was having a sleigh bell ride while Tinkles was taking photos of her.
I think the elves have picked up some teenage vibes and took on a favoured teenage activity – lying back with lollies and a mobile phone!
With a tea towel spread out to catch any mess, Tinkles was doing a great job of decorating some biscuits in Christmas colours. Ginger was there, too, but I suspect she wasn’t really helping a while heap! In fact, I’d go as far as to say Ginger spent more time nibbling at a biscuit than helping!!
No more elf sized games, Tinkles found a real cricket ball and decided to have a game with Ginger. Luckily she didn’t try using a full sized cricket bat though! The camping knife was an interesting batting choice.
What have your elves been up to? Maybe the above antics will inspire your elves to have some fun, too 🙂
Love Santa orders for 2022 close at midnight on Wednesday 14 December – that’s tomorrow night!
Every letter is still being read and edited individually, then enveloped by hand and mailed via Australia Post. Letters are being processed in regular batches and mailed straight away for orders this week.
Hopefully, Australia Post can then deliver the letters quickly – they’ve been doing a great job this year so far!
Any questions? Add a comment below or contact us directly.
Have you heard of the dirty Santa gift game before? It is a family-friendly present exchange game. I only heard of it recently, but then discovered I have played this myself, just under other names.
Once, we played and everyone kept grabbing the gift my father wanted! It wasn’t so much we wanted it (let’s face it, it was a $3 item from Kmart!), but it became a game watching Dad sweat it out each time he regained it!
Alternative gift exchanges to dirty Santa gift game
- Dirty Santa – where the presents have to be second hand
- White Elephant
- Kris Kringle (although I use that term for something else, not a game)
- Christmas Thief
- Sock Santa – all the presents are in a pair of Christmas (or normal) socks
- Rock-paper gift game – when it’s your turn, if you want to steal a gift you have to beat the other person in rock-paper-scissors first!
- kings & queens Christmas gift exchange – instead of a number, everyone holds a normal playing card. Someone calls out the cards in random order and that person selects or steals a present.
There are also lots of of similar games, like the dice gift exchange, musical gifts and pass the parcel present exchange games, but that’s a post for another day!
Playing Dirty Santa
- Ask everyone to bring a gift that would suit anybody at the event.
- You can set a theme (eg summer, Christmas, outdoors, funny, blue) and it is usual to set a price. The price you set will depend on the group and whether it is replacing more personalised gifts, but under $10, under $20 and $15-$20 are common limits for these games. To make it ‘dirty’, every gift has to be used – either something you have at home or something you grab from an op shop or trash ‘n’ treasure market. This rule is not always in place.
- When everyone is ready, make a pile of presents in the centre of the room or playing area, with everyone sitting around the pile.
- Everybody who brings a gift is given a number from 1 to however many people are playing.
- Person number 1 choses any present they like from the pile, and opens it.
- Person 2 picks any present from the pile OR takes the present from person 1. They cannot open a present then steal one!
- Person 3 picks any present from the pile OR takes the present from person 1 or 2. They also cannot open a present then steal one!
- And so on, until everyone has had their turn. Each person in the turn gets more choices. The last person obviously gets their choice of all the presents!
If your present is taken by someone else, you get to pick another present off the pile before someone else gets a turn. Sometimes, people play than person 1 gets the final choice from all the presents just to keep it interesting!
Getting your Santa number
There are lots of ways to get your number for playing dirty Santa. I’ve suggested a few below, but you may have another idea – and we’d love you to share it in the comments below!
- put the numbers in a Santa hat and everyone pulls out a number. Or write numbers onto a wrapped chocolate Santa or similar and everyone choses one from the bowl.
- play a game and the winner gets the highest number, second gets the second highest number, and so on. You could play some Christmassy or minute-to-win-it games, a who-dunnit game, rock-paper-scissors, a board game (Christmas Monopoly is a good choice!), an outdoor game like Finska, or any other game you like! You could even run a Christmas trivia quiz!
- do an elimination activity, with people getting the numbers in order as they are eliminated. Try ‘Santa says’, longest to balance on one leg, build the tallest tower of cherries, name the most Christmas carols, or balance some mince pies on your forehead for the longest!
- list everyone in order of age – eldest to get number 1 and so on
- put everyone in birthdate order – if you have a birthday on 1 of January, you get number 1, if your birthday is on 28 September, you get 28, etc. For two people on the same date, the lowest month number gets a lower number. it depends on the group as to how well this will work, but it can be funny to try!
- hand out numbers randomly as people arrive
- place numbers around the room or house and let everyone find them!
Have fun! And if you play this Christmas, use the comments below to let us know how it goes or share some photos.
BROWSE BY CATEGORY
- About Love Santa
- Baby’s first Christmas
- Children’s craft
- Christmas activities
- Christmas books
- Christmas cooking
- Christmas crafts
- Christmas gifts
- Christmas humour
- Christmas Lights/Decorations
- Christmas Memories
- Christmas spirit
- Christmas today
- Green Christmas
- Happy kindness
- International Christmas
- Santa letters
- Santa Memories
- Santa’s snacks
- Christmas elf fun
Under no circumstances, not even under threat of having to fill in for Santa on Christmas Eve, will your details of any kind be given, sold or lent to any other party.