Christmas in wartime

Men in uniforms sitting at bar eating cake and drinking from mugs.

Members of 28th (Māori) Battalion eating Christmas dinner in the desert, Nofilia, Libya, 1942. Enjoying a leg of pork from a Xmas hangi in Maadi, Egypt, 1943. Soldiers of 21 Battalion serving Christmas dinner, Faenza, Italy, 1944. 28th (Māori) Battalion members unwrapping their Christmas parcels, Faenza, Italy, 1944. New Zealand J-Force soldiers hosting a Christmas party for Japanese children, Chofu, Japan, between 1946 and 1948. Happy New Zealand artillery gunners at the 163 Battery Christmas dinner, Korea, 1951. Cooks of the 162 Battery pose with turkeys, Christmas dinner, Korea, 1951.

Main image: YMCA-supplied free cigars, coffee, cake and other items being distributed to New Zealand troops on Christmas Day during the First World War.

These images show New Zealand military personnel celebrating Christmas during the First and Second World Wars, the post-war occupation of Japan, and the Korean conflict.

Christmas during wartime gave soldiers a rare opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves away from the stresses and hardships of combat. It was also a time of sadness for many New Zealanders, both overseas and at home, as they thought about family members, lovers and friends who were far away.

Christmas parcels despatched from New Zealand supplied special food, drink and other treats, as well as Christmas cards and mail. During the Second World War the men of 28 (Māori) Battalion especially welcomed the delivery of mutton birds and other favourite foods from home.

Despite the difficult circumstances of wartime, service personnel often put a great deal of effort into creating a celebratory, festive atmosphere.

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