Special invite to Christmas grotto

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This Christmas is a welcome return to tradition for Oamaruvians Ron and Lyndsey Edwards.

The couple are inviting people young and old to their home to see the Christmas grotto they have created in their garage.

The garage grotto was a well-known fixture in Christchurch, where the couple ran it for about 24 years.

“We used to do our whole house up with Christmas lights,” Mr Edwards said.

After the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes damaged their house, the couple left Christchurch to travel around to find somewhere new to live.

Having lived in a caravan, travelled to Australia and returned to New Zealand, they eventually decided on settling down in Oamaru.

“We sort of grew to like the place,” Mr Edwards said.

The proximity of Oamaru to Christchurch was another bonus, he said.

Now settled in, the couple have restarted their Christmas grotto.

“This is the first year we’ve got our lights out again and set everything up,” Mr Edwards said.

“It’s good to see all the old stuff come out.”

The public already loved their Christmas-themed house, he said.

About 180 people from various groups and rest homes had come to see the grotto, which is also free.

“We do it for the oldies, as well as the young ones . . . It’s just our way of giving something back to the community,” Mr Edwards said.

Bringing people to see the grotto, and sing with his wife Lyndsey Edwards, was a good way to spend his early retirement, Mr Edwards said.

“We show them the grotto . . . and then we go into the lounge and sing.”

Mrs Edwards said the couple had spent more than $1200 over about 25 years assembling the grotto.

Decorations came from all over New Zealand, as well as other countries including Australia and Bali.

Their decorations included items from as far back as the 1930s.

“We love it.”

Having settled in Oamaru, the time seemed right to spread some Christmas cheer, she said.

“We thought Oamaru was very quiet and we thought we’d try and make some people happy.”

Yesterday, Emily Moss came to visit the grotto with her grandparents.

Some Christmas presents and a cheerful Christmas tune left the little girl beaming.

Her grandmother, Barbara Small, said they had heard about the grotto and jumped at the chance to bring Emily out.

“We thought we’d bring her out to see Santa,” she said.

“She was very, very excited to get some presents from Santa.”

Emily already wanted to come back next year, she said.

While the couple were enjoying the response from the Oamaru community, Mr Edwards said he did not know how much longer their Christmas grotto tradition would continue.

“We just go for as long as we can go,” he said.

“We just take it year by year.”

By DAVID DE LOREAN

MERRY CHRISTMAS: Santa poses with three-year-old Emily Moss at the Santa grotto.

PHOTO: DAVID DE LOREAN