Christmas spirit alive in Rolleston

by Mike Isle

One of the most unique Christmas attractions in New Zealand is once again opening in Rolleston this year, bringing joy to local families and aid to families in India.

The Christmas Time Tunnel, which last year attracted 1,000 visitors to the Smithies’ family farm in Waterholes Road, will open again to the public this year, with the promise of new surprises and attractions.

Gwenda and Roger Smithies and their family of 11 children, aged 15 months to 20 years, have once more transformed the grove of trees on their 7-hectare property into a 250-metre bush tunnel illuminated with fairy-lights, life-size figures and much more, as a family-friendly, non-commercial, celebration of the very first Christmas.

Gwenda Smithies said it was a real family affair putting it together.

“Roger and the older children spent days clambering among the treetops erecting the lights and other attractions while on the ground younger members of the family were kept busy sewing, building, and creating new characters to add to this year’s display,” she said.

Admission is by gold coin donation, part of which helps offset the cost of putting it together, but most going to support a charity in India which helps to alleviate poverty by assisting poor families to start their own businesses. 

Gwenda said her family chose the charity because of its focus on family and because getting help to start a business had long term benefits for a family, often lasting for generations.

“That is important for us as a family, and we can see the difference it is making.”

This is the second year the Smithies family have created a Christmas Time Tunnel.

The first was last year, and the concept took root soon after the Smithies family moved on to their new property in Waterholes Road “The property had a grove of trees on it, and we all felt there was something special about it,” Gwenda said.

“It has a peacefulness, a tranquillity, and with the hectic pace of Christmas approaching we wanted to share that with other families and to make our grove a shared celebration of the first Christmas.”

Gwenda said she was amazed that the family had 1,000 visitors to the Time Tunnel, particularly with little advertising and promotion.

The 2017 Christmas Time Tunnel, at 293 Waterholes Road, Rolleston is open from December 16 to December 23, 9pm to 10pm.