‘Tis the season – Cultural diversity at Christmas

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Christmas tree with presents

Radius Care’s residents and staff members look a lot like the New Zealand of today, a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. How our people celebrate the holidays provides a glimpse of our diversity, which extends beyond sparkling lights, pretty ornaments and swapping presents.

Regardless of culture and faith, Radius Care’s staff work tirelessly to make the holiday season special for the residents. Every December, activities are thoroughly planned to spread the festive cheer, including holiday movie and ice-cream events, lighting and decorations, pamper sessions, live music and bands, Christmas markets, carol singalongs and so much more.

In Maori culture, Christmas means Whakawahanaungatanga, or bringing the family together. Bernie Ake, who has worked at Radius Althorp for over sixteen years as activities coordinator says, “To me, Christmas means telling stories of our Tupuna (ancestors) to our Mokopuna (grandchildren), and what our Tupuna did when they were alive. We also share food through hāngī, barbecue, or a boil up. And we take daily visits as a whanau to our local swimming spot to swim, gather kaimoana (seafood) or just simply enjoy one another’s company.”

For Thea Van Kempen, therapist and activities coordinator at Radius Kensington, Christmas first and foremost is about quality time with family and friends. “I’m Dutch, I love a classic Kiwi Christmas but I also miss a snowy Northern Hemisphere Christmas with all the family inside, sharing a meal, singing carols and playing games or cards.”

Although traditional Christmases might seem prevalent, some of Radius Care’s staff revealed they have different views about the season of giving. “Our family don’t exchange presents. For many years, we have given service to the Salvation Army. And we collect food hampers for other organisations. Our joy comes from giving totally.” said Christina Wihongi, activities coordinator at Radius Rimu Park. This year, she and her family have given to the Women’s Refugee and home shelters in Whangarei.

When taking a trip down Christmas memory lane, Christina specifically mentioned 2018. “We invited a band that was part of the original Maori Volcanics with Prince Tui Teka. They had the whole facility up and dancing,” she said.

Christmas gifts are also not expected for Kanika Sharma, activities coordinator at Radius Glaisdale. “I’m a Hindu, and in the past in India our family used to enjoy a nice lunch together or visit relatives, but there wasn’t much of a Christmas celebration. Now in New Zealand, and with my twenty-month-old son, I get into the spirit and am buying a Christmas tree for him!” said Kanika. Kanika’s best end-of-year memory isn’t necessarily associated with Christmas alone. During the Diwali festival this year, her residents wanted to see Bollywood dance performance. Together with her colleagues, they made it happen. “One of our Maori colleagues joined in and danced even better than us!” she recalled. The celebration was a hit, and the next day she got compliment cards from residents when returning to work. “They said they loved how vibrant the celebration was – it’s probably my most favourite end-of-year memory ever,” she added.

Receiving thank-you notes from residents is no doubt the highlight of Christmas for Lee Heron, who works at Radius Elloughton Gardens. “Knowing my bright, bubbly personality puts a smile on the faces of many residents and staff members is a great feeling. What’s better than a great smile at Christmas time!” said Lee.

For Thea, adding a personal touch and extra care on Christmas Day is a cherished Christmas memory. “When I set the dining tables I make sure they are perfect, and I make sure that all residents get their presents. I also love to spend some time with those who have no family to bring them good cheer over the holidays,” she said.

Whether it be an interesting gift-giving tradition, a special family recipe or an all-time favourite melody, we all have something worth sharing about our individual ways of enjoying this time of year. New Zealand is culturally diverse and so are the residents and staff at Radius Care, so showing respect and recognition is perhaps what makes this time especially meaningful and unique for all the people in our care. However you choose to spend it – Radius Care wishes you happy holidays!

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