Great Joy


(Please take the time to listen to this beautiful carol sung by New Zealander David Lyle Morris. There are many renditions online, but I found that those sung by non-Kiwis left a lot to be desired as far as pronunciation - and my family will tell you that that is really saying something given my poor and often incorrect pronunciation!)

As citizens of more recently discovered lands of the New World we borrow many of our traditions from the Old World. Now, sometimes this can be a good thing. But at Christmas, when movies and cards and stories and carols all feature wintry Christmas scenes, it can become something of a problem. Some of the traditions we borrow do not fit comfortably into summer, yet we often persevere. I can still remember my grandmother's horror when it was first suggested we ditch a hot Christmas dinner in favour of cold meats and salad. "It won't be Christmas," she protested. But, honestly, who wants to stand over a hot stove in 40 plus degree Celsius heat?

Slowly, over time, we made changes to better suit our climate and culture. The food hasn't been the only thing to undergo a radical change (although now that we live in a more temperate climate we don't mind the cooking so much and tend to have both hot and cold options on offer).

This year, for us, it was the tree.

I love a real tree even if it does stir up my hay fever. What is Christmas without a Christmas tree? What indeed! But does it have to be a pine tree, especially when the only ones we could find were exorbitantly priced and already wilting?

Both Australia and New Zealand have their own native Christmas trees - trees that flower spectacularly at this time of year - and this year we decided to decorate a New Zealand Christmas tree. It has one of the advantages that it is already self-decorating! Being endowed with softer foliage than the traditional Christmas tree from our Northern neighbours we had to keep decorations to a minimum which is actually an advantage now that our children are at an age where they think they are too old to be decorating Christmas trees and our grandchildren are still at that age where they are bored with the decorating after adding one - or at the most two - decorations to the tree.





(Actually, I think it looks better in real life than in the pictures but this is the best I can do.)

I'm not sure what we'll do with the tree after Christmas. It is 'compact' in size but that apparently means it only grows to 12 metres rather than 25! We might be able to keep it in a pot for a few years after which we will either find room for it somewhere in our garden or find someone else who has more room than we do. And then perhaps we'll try an Australian Christmas tree for our next self-decorating tree. And the one we have in mind is actually the New South Wales Christmas Bush which, as a former resident of that state, obviously has significance for me.

Food and tree sorted. Now we need to turn our attention to carols. Carols can definitely be a problem. They also tend to focus on wintry scenes. Sadly, ones written specifically for our climate downunder tend to focus on holidays and sun and surf. But there is one, a New Zealand Christmas carol that I've been introduced to recently (yes, it's taken almost eighteen years!) that is everything a Christmas carol should be: a beautiful reminder of why as Christians we celebrate this time of year.

Te Harinui can be translated as "great joy" and commemorates the first Christmas service preached by the Reverend Samuel Marsden on Christmas morning, 1814, in the Bay of Islands. (And, yes, as an Australian, I am well aware that he was known there as the "flogging parson" and that there are rumours that he later fell from grace with a Māori woman - possibly unfounded or confused with another parson who was dismissed for adultery by Marsden - but it does appear that he did have a great love and respect for the Māori people and from this distance in time, it is hard to determine what exactly is true as far as history is concerned.)

The carol speaks of Christ's birth and the good news that was shared not just two thousand years ago for the first time but also two hundred years ago, and quite possibly also for the first time, in this land. What better reminder of the true meaning of Christmas?

Te Harinui
(By Willow Macky)

Not on a snowy night
by star or candle light,
nor by an angel band
there came to our dear land
Te Harinu-i
Te Harinui
Te Harinui,
glad tidings of great joy.

But on a summer day
within a quiet bay
the Māori people heard
the great and glorious word
Te Harinu-i
Te Harinui
Te Harinui,
glad tidings of great joy.

The people gathered round
upon the grassy ground,
and heard the preacher say
"I bring to you this day...
Te Harinu-i
Te Harinui
Te Harinui,
glad tidings of great joy.

Now in this blessed land
united heart and hand,
we praise the glorious Birth,
and sing to all the earth
Te Harinu-i
Te Harinui
Te Harinui,
glad tidings of great joy.

Comments

Ohtawen said…
I loved this post so much, Jules. I'm the kind of person who thinks traditions shouldn't be followed blindly... but rather examined to determine if they are really appropriate. In that light, I think it's wonderful that the Christmas celebration in New Zealand is different than that on the Northern hemisphere.

But what I like the most is, while the superficial things like food and trees are different, the meaning of Christmas stays the same everywhere :)

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