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The Canterbury Jubilee 

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"Let it be said that the Canterbury settlers are heroes in their way.  A body of gentlemen and ladies, of clergymen, of small proprietors and small farmers, and others tendered by English refinement, transplant themselves, undoubtedly incur a very great risk when they transplant themselves en masse to an almost desert shore at the other end if the world, Society is not made in a day." They are going where there is more elbow room. To carry England with them.   22nd Feb. 1851. Otago Witness  From the Times Aug. 1.

The Star 24th Dec. 1900 page 4
Canterbury's First Christmas
Those bald and bleak-looking cliffs of Port Lyttelton were an aspect that was hardly one of welcome at first sight. Like soldiers who enter upon a campaign, prepared for death if need be, but in any case ready to take all chances, those pioneers were prepared for, and expected rough living, hardships of a kind unknown in the civilisation they had left; There were amongst the pioneers men who essayed the voyage without thought.  They had pictured to themselves a totally different circumstances as awaiting their advent in the new land, it was from the pens of these men that discouraging messages flowed to the people left behind in the old land of their birth. The race back to civilisation started early.  Some of them did not even wait for the first Christmas, but were on the way to Australia in search of ship for Home. 

The old settlers tell of the difficulty they experienced in the tangle scrub, in finding even the future city, and on the first Christmas Day in Canterbury was as silent as the glacier slopes of the Southern Alps.  In Lyttelton was the scene of the first Christmas. Many were living in the immigration barracks.  Others had erected V-huts for themselves.  Cooking was done with a few boulders to enclose the fire, and the vessel slung from an extemporised tripod.  Happy was the family which could boast of a crock good enough to roast a joint of beef or mutton from the Dean's Estate, for the Messrs Deans were the producers, and the commissaries-general of those early days. No cathedral organ pealed out the Christmas anthem but from the depths of true and thankful hearts, there rose with the voices of the devoted men who had come with the pioneers to serve God with them in the new country, the words of that grand old bulwark of prayer which has been the rock in the dreary land to millions and millions of souls since the first placing of its lines by the early fathers in the hands of the people of our country.  Priest and people sang their "song of triumph and ascriptions."  Priest and people sang of that Birth which brought "peace on earth; goodwill towards men." It was a simple and a primitive Christmas celebration. But it was true. It was sincere. 

The Star 31 Dec. 1900
The First Christmas in Canterbury
The province was then the unhewn stone in the quarry.  The hand of the cunning workman had not been laid upon it. It had still all its asperities, all the stubbborness that Nature shows to yield to the arts of peace, and "the force of rougher things" had not yet been applied to it.  It was the same when the first sunrise of 1851 threw its rapidly brightening rays down the slopes of the mountain rib that separates the port from the plain.  The Scot, to whom Christmas, as a holiday, was not familiar, looked on kindly, if without enthusiasm, at the first Christmas celebration he had ever seen, and learned more, perhaps that day than he had ever known before of why the man of the English Church celebrated that day, though of New Testament history, the Scot of fifty years ago was perhaps the best informed average man to be found. Whenever New Year Day came, it was the Scot's day out. Ever since the first New Year in Canterbury, the day and the season have been celebrated as a holiday time, and it matters not now what country he comes from, the visitor to our shores will find himself, at his own proper holiday, fitted with the jollity and the joyousness of the season - be his ensign rose, thistle, or shamrock.

The Star 15 December 1900 page 4
Fifty Years Ago.
wayback
Obstacles to progress were fewer in Canterbury than in other parts of New Zealand, the path of the Canterbury Pilgram was not in any sense of the word a smooth one. The road which the Pilgrams trod was obstructed by many impediments. Steadily they won their way over tussock-clad plain, across turbulent river or stoney river-bed, up wind-swept mountain side, slowly but surely adding something to the dominion. The fruit of their labours is apparent today. The pains, which in 1850 were almost tree-less, are now clothed with forests. The silence of half a century ago is now broken by the voices of countless flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. And not only does the country smile; the towns share its gladness. A swampy marsh, uninhabited save by wild fowl and a stray Native, is now the province's town, a city of 50,000 inhabitants, rich in handsome buildings and thriving industries. They brought with them all the traditions and associations also their laws for government, their habits and customs, their literature, in a word, their life.

The Star 15 December 1900 page 6
Glimpses of the Past
by R.H.P., Ealing.
Nearly fifty years ago I walked from the vessel to the top of the Bridle Path (on a hot day), to get a bird' view of our future home, and took a seat on that large clump of rocks, about a quarter of a mile off to the left. I sat and wondered. The dreary, miles of endless tussock, the distant hills, and the little, winding stream, with its muddy mouth, not large enough to be useful- out of that we had to make our homes and live. After half-an-hour's revere, I jumped up and said. : My boy, you have got your work cut out." But I was only in my teens, and after another half-hours contemplation of existing things and capabilities (there was not a house in Christchurch, except the old Land Office, to break the dreary monotony of the view), I jumped up and said, "Go, eat and live, you must progress or die." .....

The Canterbury Jubilee
Joy kindles every heart; all eyes are brought to-day
Our voices, high, we raise,
And loud "The Pilgrims" praise.
They came, they saw, they conquered, led the way.

They found the wide-stretched plain, the rivers rushing deep;
The stubborn tussock grew
And the wild north wind blew,
But Britons heeded not, traditions they must keep.

They ploughed the Land and sowed; they 
reared the fleecy flocks;
Some built the city fair;
Some planted trees with care'
They laid the iron way and pierced the solid rocks.

And now their sons, to-day, have gathered in show,
The rich rewards of toil;
Industry's peaceful spoil;
A Jubilee, indeed, that makes our hearts to glow! 

Down some worn checks nay glide the softly falling tear:
There is no bitter grief;
Sorrow has found relief;
And children's clinging arms, their happy smiles bring cheer.

To the Great Spirit, we, in lowly reverence bend.
Thou Mover, moving all;
Grant that no ill befall,
That Canterbury may the path of Progress wend.

Louisa Blake
Christchurch, Dec. 15.

Photo - Street Decorations

The Jubilee Ode 

Roll back the Years!
Waste lay land, untamed and rude,
O'ver tussocked plain a reedy brook
Seaward its course slow-winding took,
Unmuring, in slumbrous mood,
Save where the North Wind's fevered breath
Rustled the raupo, still as death
The sad ferns brooded, and the land
Awaited yet the Pilgrim Band
A bounty-wasted solitude!

Where flax and feathered toi waved,
Droop the willows, water-laved;
Where moaned the wind through sedges rank,
Daffodils begem the bank
Through spacious park and gardens gay,
By busy street and broad highway
Past ivied halls for learning famed,
Winds the Avon, classic-named....

by Mr O.T.J. Alpers sung at the Christchurch Exhibition
Timaru Herald 5 Nov. 1900 page 4
6 verses and chorus