City Mission serves free Christmas lunch to Kiwis in need

City Mission sites around the country played Santa to thousands of Kiwis on Wednesday, serving lunches and gifting presents to families most in need. 

At the centre of it all was kindness, and organisers say they couldn't do it without the generosity of New Zealanders.

Festivities were quick to kick in at the Auckland City Mission lunch on Wednesday; 1600 people came together to celebrate as one.

"When people come in here, even just for a few hours, they forget some of the realities and feel like every other New Zealander," Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly told Newhsub.

It was the Auckland mission's 99th Christmas Day and the message is as clear as it's ever been. 

"Kindness is what this is about," Farrelly said.

Volunteers worked tirelessly to make sure Wednesday's lunch went without a hitch. That included preparing 1600 chicken drumsticks, 540 kgs of potatoes and kumara and 300 kgs of ham. 

It was a similar scene in the capital; the concrete courts at Wellington's Newtown School was the perfect place to host a Christmas party.

Ray Tuffin from Wellington City Mission told Newshub the day allowed people, especially those in isolation, to connect.

Dozens of Wellingtonians gave up their time; dishing up the festive feast that pleased a crowd of more than 400.

A sense of community was felt in Christchurch on Wednesday too. The City Mission's Christmas lunch made holidays a happy occasion.

"Everyone's got smiles on their faces, it's such a positive environment here," Christchurch resident Metua Uri-ke told Newshub. 

Christchurch City Missioner Matthew Mark said there's been a massive spike of people asking for help. Wednesday provided some respite for families struggling to make ends meet. 

"We've had about 1000 people through for lunch," Mark said. "Almost 300 volunteers are apart of that as well.

"It's just been a fun, buzzing and vibrant environment."

A special effort was made to reduce waste at lunch. Compostable plates and cutlery were used and organisers estimate they'd reduced rubbish by about 75 percent. 

And as the celebrations wrap up for another year, Farrelly said it's generosity that keeps the doors open.

"Thank you New Zealand. We are still a kind and generous community."