Weekend Sun   

It’s Christmas at the Marae

Riria Gibbons, organisor of event, says the community celebration is about bringing people together.

Whanaungatanga means togetherness.

And that’s the theme driving next week’s first-ever community Christmas celebration at Hungahungaturoa Marae.

The event is an effort to open up the marae doors, letting the wider community know they are welcome, says organisor and Whanau Ora coordinator Riria Gibbons.

Christmas at the Marae, hosted by Waipu Hauora, will take place on Thursday, December 12 from 7pm.

“It's not exclusive to the Matapihi whanau, it’s for everyone. It’s about whanaungatanga, and the community can come to this hub and be here with us.”

Hana Koko (Maori Santa), kai, live music and bouncy castles are just a handful of things to look forward to at the festive celebration.

Riria says in previous years Waipu Hauora has run exclusive Christmas events for their tamariki, rangatahi and elderly clients. But this year, they wanted to change things up.

She's hoping to see more than 150 people turn out on Thursday, saying that the family-friendly event is a time for people to kick back and celebrate the end of the year.

"There's going to be Hana Koko on a four-wheel-drive handing out presents to all our babies that show-up."

"Everyone loves kai and everyone loves music. It'll have a community gala kind of vibe."

Waipu Hauora connects the community with specialist services, supporting health and wellbeing of clients.

Riria emphasises that while the services are marae-based, they are not exclusive to whanau in Matapihi.

"Non-Maori can come along and utilise our services as well, and we want to reflect that message in holding this community event."

"We are noticing that all walks of life are coming through the Matapihi community - they need to realise our services are available to them."

A group of motivated mums is working alongside Riria to bring the event to life. They ask attendees to bring along a nonperishable food donation and a $2 toy for Santa to give out.

Food donations will go towards local homeless initiative Under the Stars.

Christmas at the Marae is drug and alcohol-free event, a message supported by Ngai Te Rangi Iwi. For more information, contact: riria@waipuhauora.org.nz

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