East Lancs 'twin towns': How they celebrate Christmas

Blackburn Citizen: Nelson, New Zealand Nelson, New Zealand

CHRISTMAS in East Lancashire usually involves dodgy festive jumpers, a warm fire, generous helpings of food and drink, and cold, wintry weather.

But how do people in Blackburn, Burnley and Nelson in other parts of the world celebrate Christmas?

Reporter Michael Morrison spoke to the residents of East Lancashire namesakes across the globe to see how they plan to mark the festive season.

And it seems that, while we’re holed away indoors knocking back egg nog and feasting on the praline chocolates Grandma didn’t like, residents elsewhere will be surfing, barbecuing on the beach and playing cricket.



In New Zealand, Nelson is a city on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay, and is the second oldest settled city in the country.

The city of 46,000 people was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson, and many of its streets are named after people and ships associated with the Battle of Trafalgar.

Every year, a Light Up Nelson competition is held to find out which resident has the best festive decorations.

And this year, Christ Church Cathedral has been decorated with more than 30 trees, each trimmed by local community groups, organisations and businesses.

A parade has also been held, and a Jingle Bell jog was held, where people run from the city to the beach in fancy dress.

Nearly 200 runners, scooter riders and walkers dressed up in festive costumes last Sunday to take part in the annual Jingle Bell Jog.

Phillip Rollo, a local reporter, said: “Nelson is the sunniest place in New Zealand, but the forecast is actually for rain at Christmas.

Elsewhere, a Summer In Nelson event, saw a huge crowd participate in the annual Lantern Celebration, which sees residents march with homemade lanterns, with installations and performances entertaining them along their route.

“Personally, we generally spend Christmas at the beach, river, or having barbecues with family and friends.”



In Australia, Burnley is a Melbourne district, just yards from the city’s cricket ground, and is home to many people of Greek origin.

The district has a population of 738, according to the 2011 Census, and is well known across Melbourne because of the nearby Burnley Tunnel, a significant feature in the city’s transport network.

Like its namesake in East Lancashire, the district has its own Burnley College, as well as several parks, radio stations, and a TV station.

Father Matthew Healy is a vicar at St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church. He said: “For us in Burnley, Melbourne, Christmas has the usual southern hemisphere feel — warm weather and people on holiday.

“The place usually empties of people and is very quiet.

“For those of us left, the Christmas experience would involve family gatherings on Christmas Eve and Day for festive meals and drinks. On Christmas Day, it would be very common to find people at Burnley Park playing cricket, kicking around a football — Australian style — or taking their dog for a walk.

"And Boxing Day is either going to or watching the Test Match at the cricket ground on TV, and the TV viewing of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race — and more food and drinks.”



Blackburn, in Arkansas, has been dubbed ‘the little town on the river’.

Named after Kentucky politician Senator Joseph Blackburn, the town’s populations stands at 108, according to the 2010 Census, and it no longer has a school or post office, which closed in 1960.

Sited to the south and at a natural ford of the Arkansas River, Blackburn’s economy was based around agriculture, with cotton and corns as the main crops. The community had a cotton gin, a flour mill, livery stable, and several blacksmiths.

But a drought in 1901 led to hundreds abandoning their farms.

Billye Denny, of Denny’s Service Station, in Blackburn, Arkansas said it had been classified as a ghost town, and no longer marked the Christmas season as a community.

Billye said: “There used to be somebody here from Blackburn, England, but they’re gone now. The town was established in 1893.

“When you lose your post office, they call you a ghost town but I don’t agree with it.

“The people in town decorate but we don’t have a parade or anything.

“A new camp has opened up, but they don’t have kids staying in the winter.

“Blackburn United Methodist Church decorates, though.”


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