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How Auckland used to celebrate Christmas

Published: 11 December 2018

Have you ever wondered how Aucklanders celebrated Christmas and the summer holidays over the years?

Explore the virtual heritage trail below, and discover a few highlights of Auckland’s historic holiday sites.

Stop 1: Santa

Christmas Heritage trail - Santa.jpg
Here’s Santa at the Hobson Street Farmers in the 1970s. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 9-1.

It’s not really Christmas in the Auckland CBD without Santa. Once infamous for his winking eye and beckoning finger, Santa has been a fixture in the CBD since 1960 when he first graced the side of Farmers in Hobson Street – now a scheduled historic heritage place.

Santa has also spent some time in Manukau (from 1991-5) and has been lovingly restored several times. Santa and his reindeer now spend their summer holidays on the former John Courts building – another scheduled historic heritage place – on Queen Street.

Stop 2: Norfolk Pine

Christmas Heritage trail - Norfolk Pine.jpg
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, Footprints 05335.

Gazing at Christmas lights is a popular family outing over the Christmas period. This Norfolk Pine blazes with light as seen in the photo above around the 1950s. This is possibly the notable tree which still stands at Great South Road near Southmall.

Stop 3: The Races

Christmas Heritage trail - Races 1912.jpg
Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-19130102-5-1. Zoom in to see a variety of hats and parasols.

Going to the races has long been a popular activity for Aucklanders during the summer. Historically, Ellerslie Racecourse would be packed for the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day race meetings.

30,000 people attended the Auckland Cup on Boxing Day 1912, as shown in the images above, betting £54,479 (which would be over $9 million today). As well as having a flutter, going to the races was an opportunity to dress up and socialise in the sunshine – just look at those hats and parasols! Parts of the racecourse, including the ticket booths, are now scheduled historic heritage places.

Stop 4: The Races (again)

Christmas Heritage trail - Races 1980s.jpg
Photograph by Eric Young, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1021-418.

In this 1980s summer race meeting at Ellerslie, there aren’t as many hats as in 1912 but there are plenty of colourful umbrellas. Which umbrella pattern did your family have?

Take another look at the places you head to this summer – they might have a richer history than you realise!