My memories of a Māori Christmas are seen through the eyes of a nana. Whanau gather from far and wide – usually at my whare (house). A call goes out for spare mattresses and bedding and there’s a quick check to make sure we have a enough of everything else. My mokopuna all squabble about who is going to sleep in nan’s bed and poua (granddad) declares he is sleeping in another room. Lists of who is bringing what or who is making what are decided on via numerous email messages.
All the Aunties (my sisters) suddenly remember a favourite dish of kai they must make for the big day and send husbands, nieces, nephews (and anyone else they can boss around), out to find a special ingredient. There is always loads of delicious kai moana to be shared gathered and prepared by our tane.
I can still remember the delicious smells of dad’s smoke house burning away full of eel, and patiki (flounder) and mum growling because the smoke is going all over her washing line. Uncle George on the Chatham’s always sent us a couple of crates of koura (crayfish) and tins of titi (mutton birds) would arrive form the deep south. Swan eggs would make the most sumptuous sponges and mum’s raspberry jam would be piled on the top with great dollops of thick clotted cream that dad would bring home from the shearing shed.
One of my favourite dishes was Uncle Mick’s creamed paua with chunks of koura … tino reka. Of course there was always the pot on the stove full of pork bones water cress or puha and dad’s new spuds. this was constantly topped up ready for unexpected visitors.
One of my other favourite memories is the whanau singalongs. The guitars would come out and all the tamariki would be lined up to sing the waiata they had learned at kapahaka. Lots of toe tapping and swaying of the Aunties well-rounded hips would accompany the waiata with giggles from the moko about nana’s fat bum or poua’s pot belly.
Christmas this year won’t be as busy as lots of our whanau are now spread all over the world but where ever you are Ngā mihi mo te wā me te Tau hou mo 2010.
Whaea Haneta Pierce, Kaiwhakahaere Ratonga Māori
There are lots of kai books available in the library to show you how to lay down a hangi or make some Māori bread. Try a few of them: