Christmas is on the way but the spirit is missing in Hamilton

The Hamilton Christmas Tree: An annual spectacle (Website Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
14 December 2022

The Christmas experience in Hamilton thus far could be defined as a bittersweet experience with many challenges and a few cheers.

This Reporter went around the City to explore how this holiday season is shaping, compared to last year and what the Post Covid-Christmas celebrations look like.

Temple View sparkles

There is an extra sparkle around Temple View this festive season with traditional Christmas lights back at Hamilton’s Mormon Temple.

The lights, which have attracted large crowds in the past, have been missing for the past few years as the facility underwent refurbishments. With the lights returning, Hamiltonians now have their own Christmas tradition of visiting the place.

With the theme of the year being ‘Light the World,’ Church Communication Director Central North Island Vicki Lee Wihongi said, “The message is that all of us have the opportunity to take the light we carry and spread it to those who may need help, like neighbours, family, and other agencies.”

She said that they used to get around 30,000 to 40,000 people viewing the lights over a couple of weeks but was not sure how many they will get this year.

The Spectacle returns: Temple View Lights 2022 (INL Photo by Praneeta Mahajan)











“We normally partner with Hamilton City Council, who usually push the event, and would put on free buses, but we have not done that this year,” she said.

The first Open House since its launch in 1958 was organised this year by the Temple after undergoing renovations for three years. It was a rare opportunity welcomed by the public considering the great turnout for the organised tours.

“After the Temple is rededicated, entrance is reserved for members of our faith. To us, Temples are the most sacred places on earth. It is where we can get closer to God and where families can be united for this life and eternity,” the Temple Website said.

Harrowfield Street Lights

An annual walk around the neighbourhood of Harrowfield Drive has become a much-awaited Christmas event in Hamilton.

“But it is not about the money, it is about the fun,” resident Kathy Wright-St Clair, who has been a participant for the past ten years, winning the Best-Lit House a few years, said.

It is always fun at the Harrowfield Drive Christmas Lights (INL Photo by Praneeta Mahajan)













The community spirit and children’s excited laughs are two things noticed. Around the weekend, people dress up with Christmas props, some even dressing their pooches in festive apparel for a stroll.

“The lights are now on and all the residents have put the lights on, hoping they can be part of some greater good and catalyse the joy for everyone that visits us,” another resident said.

The Towering Christmas Tree

Hamilton has New Zealand’s tallest Christmas Tree.

With an impressive height of 27 metres to the tip of the star, it is over six stories high. It took a team of 15 people to install the frame and the lighting, fluff the branches and hang the baubles.

The tree is ready to shine brightly in Garden Place once again in 2022 and will be a great focal point for the community to gather, watch, perform and celebrate the festive season.

The Christmas Tree is lit from the end of November to New Year.

While the rain spoilt the opening night fun which usually sees some live performances, food stalls and a countdown to the lights being turned on, it is still a sight that delights and reminds you of the festive cheer.

Low demand for gifts

Stats NZ figures released recently showed that year-to-year food price increases had reached a 14-year high. Food prices in October were 10.1% higher compared to October 2021. Around one-third of people were planning to spend less on Christmas gifts than they usually would or spend less on dining out during the festive season.

Meanwhile, 32% were planning a small Christmas at home. In comparison, one in five surveyed said that their plans would not be affected by the cost of living increases.

The Retail Sector is dull and anxious (Image supplied)












The consumer survey data is from an online survey commissioned by business software firm MYOB – that polled 1020 adults in late October.

Spokesperson Jo Tozer said that New Zealand businesses should be paying attention to changing trends.

“While our research suggests that spending will be comparable to 2021 at most levels, with the dollar not stretching as far this year – especially on essentials like food – it is likely that many families will be adjusting what their traditional festive celebrations entail. As a result, it could continue to be a challenging end of the year for some businesses who will feel this pinch more than others as discretionary spending is reassessed,” she said.

According to the Company, one in five were also planning to shop earlier this year – with concerns about global shipping delays and stock shortages. Around 43% are planning to do most of their Christmas shopping at a mall, while just over a quarter plan to purchase most of their gifts from a local business.

Payment Network Worldline New Zealand said shoppers spent $67 million on Black Friday sales, down 6.9% from a year ago, excluding hospitality, food and liquor. And these numbers indicate that post-Covid Festivities have been further hampered by the increasing cost of living.

Retailers pessimistic

Indian Newslink spoke to several store owners at The Base, Te Rapa as well as Chartwell Mall in Hamilton to inquire about how they saw the sales graphs for the month so far and what they expected in the coming fortnight.

The message was the same across the spectrum of brands which included jewellery, homeware, fashion and electronics. Almost every store manager echoed concerns over supply delays, lesser purchasing due to a higher cost of living and interest rate hikes, while many said that ramraids and surge in crime were added pressure for their businesses.

While the projections will only be apparent by early January once the financial transactions are collated, all the businesses are surely hoping for a quick turnaround closer to Christmas.

Visa delays hurt

Relatives planning a Christmas trip to New Zealand to visit loved ones are having to call off their plans after hold-ups of visas.

Flights have been booked for long-awaited family reunions but are being cancelled.

Thousands of visitor visas for parents and grandparents were discovered to have gotten stuck and went unprocessed after a computer system failure.

For many travellers, an unavoidable transit through Australia meant another visa application after their New Zealand visa was processed. Coupled with a lack of availability in flights and cost, the delays were putting a Christmas reunion out of reach.

Immigration Adviser Matt Simpson has written to the Auditor-General asking for a performance audit of Immigration New Zealand (INZ), centred on its new computer system and resources.

“If immigration was a business, no one would go see them, right? If there was an alternative way to get a visa they will not be doing it through INZ,” he said.

As the last 12 days until Christmas loom, some families are despairing over visitor visa delays which means they will not see parents and grandparents until next year.

INZ acknowledged that some applicants had experienced delays and it had prioritised the processing of applications received in August and September.

Covid fears loom

A leading immunologist is concerned that a lack of reliable data means that we could be heading into the Christmas period with far more Covid infections of which we are aware.

University of Auckland Senior Lecturer and Immunologist Anna Brooks said that it would be prudent for surveillance testing to be reintroduced so that we can get a better picture of the state of the pandemic in this country. Another tool that we now have to help us do this is antibody tests, which can confirm whether you have had the virus.

With Covid numbers on the increase in recent days and the pressure of coping with mortgages, higher cost of living and other factors like people travelling overseas with eased border restrictions, the holidays in Hamilton are not as busy as they were expected to be.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink correspondent based in Hamilton.

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