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Gannet pie under the Antipodean holly?

Media Release
13 December 2007

Gannet pie under the Antipodean holly?

A magnificent gannet, shot by Endeavour botanist Joseph Banks, substituted for goose during James Cook’s first New Zealand Christmas in 1769 – fortunately for the endangered bird the dish did not become a Kiwi tradition.

This is just one of the fascinating stories about the Kiwi Christmas, past and present, included in a new feature on at

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage website delves into the Kiwi Christmas experience – from Abel Tasman’s first New Zealand Christmas in 1642 to the declining reign of the Queen’s message in our living rooms.

The feature highlights a Readers’ Digest Christmas Poll showing New Zealanders still prefer an indoor roast to a picnic and that women under the age of 44 are more excited than their male counterparts about Christmas – despite doing more of the festive work.

More articles will be added over the next two weeks. They so far include New Zealand’s first Christmas and sermon; the Christmas tree; Kiwis' attitude to Christmas; Kiwi Christmas cards and ‘Claus in Stores’. And the stories are classics.

James Cook’s first New Zealand Christmas in 1769 wasn’t all smooth sailing. The crew of the Endeavour apparently spent Boxing Day ‘nursing hangovers’ – a tradition of post-prandial suffering still well honoured by New Zealanders.

Santa’s potential as the world’s greatest toy salesman was picked up by New Zealand department stores as early as 1894. His grotto still does a trade, but with a 47% popularity rating he’s now turned to answering present requests by email while children track his Christmas Eve movements online.

The site is packed with Māori traditions, settlers’ stories, heartfelt odes to the Pohutukawa and contemporary quirks of Kiwi Christmases – all accompanied by rich imagery. will be adding more home-grown anecdotes and historical gems in the lead up to Christmas.

Images from the ‘Kiwi Christmas Cards’ section can be used with permission and acknowledgement from the Alexander Turnbull Library. They can be found on the Timeframes website:


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