Happy Christmas to feminists

This is a negative, even nasty, column.

Lizzie Marvelly: How to survive a feminist Christmas

It’s sad to see such a bitter, grossly generalised rant. Fortunately a lot of women and men get on with living with decent ‘feminist’ principles without dragging themselves down into that level of victimhood.

Successful feminists don’t see themselves as victims, and anyone who doesn’t fit their feminist ideal as some sort of enemy that must tip toe around them on eggshells to not piss them off.

Equality is important to feminism, to an extent (we are all different, and many of us see different things in equality). In principle all of us are sort of equal – but only if we see ourselves as equal.

Marvelly seems to see herself and her brand of feminism, whatever that is, as superior, rather than of equal weight to other views on feminism.

I think Christmas works better when tolerance of differences wins over nit-picking everything that doesn’t fit some sort of impossible ideal.

This means sometimes working together on tasks, but also sometimes doing our own tasks aas we see fit as families and groups of friends and acquaintances.

It’s often not practical for house full of family to al peel an equal number of spuds, to all make an equal trifle each, or to all do an equal amount of dishes – or drink an equal amount of alcohol, or non-alcohol drinks as some prefer.

I hope that most feminists have a very happy Christmas, however they do it, and don’t get bogged down with hard-done-by-ness.

Air NZ strike notice lifted

Air New Zealand strikes planned for three days before Christmas have been called off. This will be a relief for the many people who would have been affected.

I presume some sort of agreement or compromise has been made between the airline and union, but I also expect there would have been a lot of anger expressed to them. I don’t know how badly pay negotiations were going, but threatening to strike at Christmas looked a bit like industrial blackmail.

Santa’s a crock

Young children often don’t take to Santa straight away, particularly between the ages of about 1 and 2. Some are frightened by the dressed up dude, some just don’t want anything to do with an odd looking stranger.

When they get older they at least tolerate the Santa act, once the have worked out it is linked to getting presents. Then Santa could be a reindeer with a funny hat for all they care, as long as they get their present.

Here’s one wee girl who…

“…was so determined, she closed her eyes until she could turn herself away completely then refused to look in his direction.”

But even though Santa is a crock to her, the wee lassie did have some Christmas  joy.

Crocs are normal in northern Australia, but not so overdressed people who aren’t wearing thongs. Perhaps that’s why Santa looks so uncomfortable.

A black day for Christmas shopping

Thursday is one of the biggest days of the year in the US, Thanksgiving Day. I observed a Thanksgiving Day when I was there a few years ago, an interesting fly on the wall type experience (as a lot of my time in the US was).

It’s not just a big day in the US, it is a big long weekend (although only some states make it a public holiday for state employees).

They launch major Christmas shopping marketing on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day. It is the biggest shopping day of their year. They call it Black Friday for some reason. It’s never on the 13th. Maybe it’s a black day for many people’s finances (but yeah, that would make it a red day).

This is recent in the US. It started in 1952 but did not become known as ‘Black Friday’ until the 1980s.

Now it seems that New Zealand marketers are trying to make it a thing. Without Thanksgiving Day (I’m surprised turkey marketers haven’t tried that yet).

The whole front page of today’s ODT is plastered with ‘Black Friday’ advertising. Cringe. I’m not going to touch it – I have already been warned that black ink hands are worse than usual, but I am avoiding getting sucked into this commercial crap.

I guess it’s just another name for yet another sale. In the not too distant past sales were one week a year, not they seem to be once a week. Or all week, just with a different name for marketing purposes.

I’m opting out, but it’s hard to avoid the media pollution.


People can’t afford Christmas

Modern Christmas, dominated by commercialism and relentless pressure on ever widening present lists, is a financial challenge for most people.

Newstalk ZB:  Survey shows one in five Kiwis can’t afford Christmas

A new survey has shed light on the struggles Kiwi families face during Christmas.

The Salvation Army survey shows one in five Kiwis say they can’t afford to celebrate Christmas, with almost half saying Christmas is a time of financial struggle.

Head of Welfare Services Major Pam Waugh told Kate Hawkesby these numbers don’t come as a surprise, given the rising living costs.

“When you look at what’s going on in our communities and you listen to families, this us quite indicative of what we see coming through our door but also of families struggling to keep their head above water.”

Ever year the number of families needing help increases, however Waugh says they are hoping the Government’s Families Package will start to help.

“This year we are hoping to stabilise it. We think the Families Package has made a dent…but a lot of the families we work with are struggle with debt that has built up over years of not being able to afford their basic living cost.”

“We have encouraged people to look at that debt and get it paid down so in another year or so we will see the full impact of those packages.”

She said Christmas puts added stress on families who are already struggling to cope.

“Christmas impacts on all of us. We are in a consumer-driven society. Children are watching TV and see what they want. They have the same wishes and wants as all children and that impacts on our families who really struggle to provide that.”

While not being able to afford Christmas depends on what your budget is, generally and for the Christmas period, it has become a financial disaster zone for many people.

I remember some very sparse Christmases when I was a child, especially in years where fruit was hit badly by frost. Things are easier these days by a long way for me.

But it’s very easier to get drawn into more presents for more more people, and far more food than anyone needs. And this can set the finances back far more than is necessary.

I’m looking forward to a great Christmas this year – it will be the first one shared with three grandchildren who are coming to stay for three weeks. The present challenge is amplified because they all have birthdays in the week or so before they arrive. But just sharing the occasion with them will mean more than anything that money can buy.

Out with the monarchy, in with the pōhutukawa

On Christmas Eve Heather du Plessis-Alan pointed out the growing differences between the traditional (northern hemisphere) Christmas and our summer celebration in the south, and likens this to the separation from the archaic other side of the world monarchy.

NZH: Heather du Plessis-Allan: Kiwis need to step up, be proud, and dump pines for pōhutukawa

I blame it on the pōhutukawa. There’s nothing more Kiwi than a pōhutukawa. They mark our summers for us.

If the red blooms arrive early, we know summer has come early.

Summer arrived early in Dunedin, pōhutukawas are already alight with red flowers.

We love our pōhutukawa. They’re on Christmas cards and tea towels and kitsch paintings of the beach.

Yet we cheat on them every Christmas. Instead of including the most Kiwi of all trees in our festivities, we betray them with a pine.

The pine is not even traditional Christmas – pinus radiata (Montery pine) originates from California and Mexico so I’m not sure how it became our common Christmas tree.

For some time for us pine is longer used, inside the house it causes allergic mayhem.

We could be hanging ornaments shaped liked tiny jandals and barbecue tongs on our pōhutukawa, but instead we decorate pine trees with reindeer and fake snow. Ever seen a reindeer? Me neither.

And so, the pōhutukawa gets me feeling patriotic every Christmas.

I start off wondering how long it’ll take us to be brave enough to swap the pine for it, and end up wondering how long it’ll take us to make much braver decisions about New Zealand’s future.

We can’t go on being part of the British realm forever. It’s increasingly ridiculous that New Zealand’s ultimate decision-maker lives on the other side of the world and has visited our country fewer than a dozen times.

The Queen was last in New Zealand fifteen years ago, in 2002. I think she intends never to come here again.

At some stage, we’ll have to make the call to become a Republic. We all know it’s coming. It’s just a question of when.

I think it is generally assumed that nothing will change while the current Queen survives, but once she is gone the chances of at least giving New Zealanders a choice of who they want to be their head of state will become more likely.

NZ History: Pohutukawa trees

The first known published reference to the pohutukawa as a Christmas tree came in 1857 when ‘flowers of the scarlet Pohutukawa, or “Christmas tree”’ formed part of table decorations at a feast put on by Ngāpuhi leader Eruera Patuone.

Other 19th-century references described the pohutukawa tree as the ‘Settlers Christmas tree’ and ‘Antipodean holly’.

In 1941 army chaplain Ted Forsman composed a pohutukawa carol in which he made reference to ‘your red tufts, our snow’. Forsman was serving in the Libyan Desert at the time.



Christmas in Ypres, 1917

This is about a Christmas of a different sort to those normally associated with World War 1.

This was in Ypres in 1917.

This is from one of my grandfather’s diary. It shows that during the course to the war soldiers were moved in and out of France. Just prior to this he has received a commission and had spent time training in England as an engineer.

Lille Gate:

The Lille Gate or Rijselpoort in Ypres.

Ypres was badly damaged in the war, with the Lille Gate being relatively unscathed and housing a number of military headquarters.

Another snapshot from a year earlier:

Christmas Day On The Somme

’Twas Christmas Day on the Somme
The men stood on parade,
The snow laid six feet on the ground
Twas twenty in the shade.

Up spoke the Captain ‘gallant man’,
“Just hear what I’ve to say,
You may not have remembered that
Today is Christmas Day.”

“The General has expressed a wish
This day may be observed,
Today you will only work eight hours,
A rest that’s well deserved.

I hope you’ll keep yourselves quite clean
And smart and spruce and nice,
The stream is frozen hard
But a pick will break the ice.”

“All men will get two biscuits each,
I’m sure you’re tired of bread,
I’m sorry there’s no turkey
but there’s Bully Beef instead.

The puddings plum have not arrived
But they are on their way,
I’ll guarantee they’ll be in time
To eat next Christmas Day.”

“You’re parcels would have been in time
But I regret to say
The vessel which conveyed them was
Torpedoed on the way.

The Quartermaster’s got your rum
But you may get some yet,
Each man will be presented with
A Woodbine Cigarette.”

“The Huns have caught us in the rear
And painted France all red,
Pray do not let that trouble you,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Now ere you go I wish you all
This season of good cheer,
A very happy Christmas and
A prosperous New Year.”

The author, Leslie George Robb, was killed in September 1917 and was buried 5 km south of Ypres along with many many others.

We have a lot we should be grateful for a century later.

Prime Minister’s Christmas message

NZH: Jacinda Ardern’s Christmas message

Merry Christmas.

No matter what you’re doing or how you’re celebrating I hope you have a happy and safe time.

For me some of the best traditions are not the presents or gifts, but about family and all the personal traditions we build over the years.

As a 30-something year old I still make marshmallow balls with my sister Louise, even though we’ve eaten so many we’ve actually gone off them. Then there’s my partner Clarke and his 100 per cent wool reindeer jersey, which he still wears in the heat of the Gisborne sun.

Because of dad’s job as a policeman Christmas sometimes had to be delayed in our household so I’ve always been really aware that there’s lots of Kiwis who don’t get the luxury of down time on the day.

Our emergency service staff, women’s refuge workers, doctors and nurses – you all do an amazing job – and I thank you for it. I know we’ll take a moment in our day to think about them, as well as everyone they’re looking after and those who don’t have close family to celebrate the day with.

I’ve already been given the only thing I asked for –a bottle of sleep and relaxation – so thanks Taita Central School.

Take care, enjoy a politics free holiday!

Christmas cheers

Another day of work for me (at my day job) until I have a holiday break – but Christmas is inescapably looming.  A Christmas tree went up in the household this morning, with the help of an excited grandchild. Kids make Christmas.

I’m not into Christ or Mass but it is still Christmas for me. I don’t do any boxing the day after but it’s still Boxing Day.

My Christmas day will be very quiet due to other sides of families having their turn, absences overseas and work commitments, but we will have a family onslaught for Boxing Day, and then a number of visitors coming to stay through January.

Things will keep chugging away here most of the time, but it will no doubt be quieter.

Have a great Christmas however you do it, and enjoy a break if you get one.



Caution advised over Christmas, but a resolution is required

This is wise advice…

…but there is a risk of a chilling effect on harmless socialising.

While holding sexual nuisances, abusers and predators to account is long overdue, there are dangers.

Passing contact, pats on the shoulder, back, bum, could be misconstrued, or they could be an invasion of personal space, or could be sexual harassment.

Hugging has become a widespread practice – has it gone to far? Some people don’t like being hugged by workmates, acquaintances or people they hardly know or have just met.

Personally I’d prefer to limit hugs to people I know well and love.

How common is it for children to be coerced into hugging relatives when they are obviously uncomfortable with it?

It’s not just personal contact in which there can be problems, there is potential risk from online contact, from comments or from inappropriate posts.

Most contact passes as ok, inoffensive, or not worth making a fuss about.

Some contact  is unwelcome, uncomfortable.

A fraction of contact – too much and too often – is over the top, over the line, offensive, predatory and worse. This needs to be checked and dealt with.

But there are risks that accusations can be themselves used as harassment and abuse.

Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental part of our justice system, but it is imperfect, especially when people with power and influence are guilty. Some of them have been long term recidivists.

The issue of personal and sexual abuse and harassment needs to be confronted and dealt with better by our society, but it is a difficult and complex issue.

It’s not just a US problem.

In New Zealand the very serious issue of abuse of children in state remains improperly dealt with.

In Australia the findings of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just been released. It is damning, especially of the Catholic Church, which hid, aided and abetted abuse for a long time.

A number of people in power in churches, institutions, schools and sports clubs have acted disgracefully.

RNZ: Australia child abuse inquiry: ‘It is a national tragedy’

A five-year inquiry into child sexual abuse in Australia has released its final report, making more than 400 recommendations.

The royal commission heard evidence from thousands of victims. Allegations were made against more than 4000 institutions.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused,” commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said on Thursday.

Many dirty secrets have been revealed and exposed.

RNZ: Pope responds to Oz sex abuse report

Pope Francis says the findings of Australia’s child sex abuse royal commission “deserve to be studied in depth”, after the Catholic Church was heavily criticised in the final report.

The sanctity of the religious confessional would be tossed aside and celibacy would become voluntary under the final recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which were released on Friday.

“The final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is the result of the accurate efforts made by the Commission in recent years and deserves to be studied in depth,” the Pope said in a statement online.

“The Holy See remains close to the Catholic Church in Australia – lay faithful, religious and clergy – as it listens and accompanies victims and survivors in an effort to bring healing and justice.”

Mild and vague words about a serious problem in the church. And there is resistance to change:

Archbishop Fisher was also quick to downplay any change to tradition.

“I think any proposal to effectively stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and I don’t think would help any young person,” he said.

Clinging to tradition and to power seems more important than exorcising a horrible record of abuse.

Priests and the church has seen itself as above the law. They put themselves second only to God, and acted as judge and jury.

And too often as the dirty offenders.

The royal commission report said the Catholic Church had demonstrated “catastrophic failures of leadership”, particularly before the 1990s.

The average age of abuse victims at Catholic institutions was 11 years old.

There’s no reason to doubt that there have been similar problems in New Zealand – in churches, in state care. There have been convictions of people from sports clubs, from cubs and scouts, even an ambulance officer has been convicted of abuse of patients in ambulances.

There are risks of inappropriate behaviour at Christmas parties, at New Year parties, in workplaces and homes and institutions.

There is always a risk of false or disproportionate accusations.

For a long time there have been far greater risks through inaction, through turning blind eyes, sweeping dirty secrets under carpets.

There will be some overreactions, but by far the biggest risk has been inaction, a failure by families, communities, authorities, societies to address these problems.

Smooching under the mistletoe is not really the problem. It’s what happens behind out of sight, behind closed doors where greater dangers lie.

We should still be able to have fun at parties, we should still enjoy one of the biggest social events of the year, Christmas. And New Year.

But a worthy resolution would be to find a way as fairly and effectively as possible to address the many dirty secrets of the past, and to enable healing, as much as is possible, of victims of abuse.