Relationships

A Christmas letter to Father Christmas shows the anti-German sentiment common in New Zealand around the time of the First World War.

Letter to Father Christmas by Edna Crompton, c. 1914.(external link)

Letter to Father Christmas by Edna Crompton, c. 1914. Alexander Turnbull Library.. fMS-Papers-7627-01.

Context

During the war, many people started to think of different countries as being either on “our” side or on “their” side. Even German people who had lived in New Zealand for many years were sometimes treated with suspicion. Some Germans were accused of being spies and were imprisoned on Matiu (Somes Island) or Motuihe Island. The note at the bottom of Edna’s Christmas letter that says ‘don’t bring German things’ shows just how strongly people felt.

New Zealand had a positive relationship with countries not on the opposing side. It went into the war because it was part of the British Empire, and the battles where New Zealanders fought alongside Australian troops built a military connection that still impacts our culture and politics.

The connection between New Zealand and other societies in the Pacific changed during the war. Soldiers from Niue and the Cook Islands, both administered by New Zealand at the time, served in the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Western Samoa, then known as German Samoa, was captured by New Zealand on behalf of the British Crown, and New Zealand then controlled Samoa until 1962. Although there was tragic conflict between the local Samoans and the New Zealand authorities at the time, the relationship between Western Samoa and New Zealand is now very strong and positive.

New Zealand now works with other countries to build ongoing peace and security through organisations like the United Nations.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this letter in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What can you see in this letter? What does it tell you about Edna? How old do you think she was when she wrote it?
  • What does Edna mean by “German things”? Why does Edna not want them?
  • Can you think of some other German things that people might have avoided?
  • Who do we have special relationships with? As a family? As a community?
  • Why are these relationships important? How do we show that they are special?
  • What countries do you think New Zealand has a special relationship with? How might we show these relationships?
  • How might friendships with other countries help us?
  • Do you have friends in other countries or parts of New Zealand? How do you stay friends with them? What are things that make it difficult to stay friends with people who live far away?
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