Muslim refugees pitch in to save Christmas tradition

Fourteen Afghan women refugees in Auckland are joining the Waste-Free Celebrations Sewing Circle to produce reusable gift bags and reusable Christmas Re-Crackers™ for Christmas this year.

Last year, NZ imported 1.7 million disposable crackers (sounds a lot right?). However in 2015, it was over 4.5 million. This drop isn’t because we no longer love crackers -- we LOVE them! But as people become more aware of waste, they have chosen to forgo the much-loved tradition.

But, with our Christmas Re-Crackers™, the cracker is back! Christmas Re-Crackers™ pull apart like a real cracker, go off with a bang and the familiar smell of gunpowder, then slide back together for decades of use. They include a reusable crown designed to fit all heads, and are durable and machine washable. The optional plastic-free bon-bons are supplied by a variety of small NZ businesses located in Otago, Southland and Canterbury -- nothing plastic, nothing imported. The patent pending design was created by us and it is thanks to these Muslim women, and the sewers of Central Otago, that our much-loved Christmas tradition is being saved for future generations to enjoy.

The Sewing Circles

With limited labour available in Central Otago, we opened this sewing circle in Auckland last weekend. I used to live in Afghanistan as an aid worker and knew Afghan women to be skilled seamstresses -- they also enjoy working from home which suited the WFC production model. With the help of Fahima Saeid from NFACT (New Settlers Family and Community Trust), the group of Afghan women volunteered to take on the work of sewing for Christmas. The goal of NFACT is to promote social cohesion and interfaith harmony as well as creating educational and employment opportunities for refugee women in New Zealand.

(A little piece of crazy information is that Fahima grew up on the corner of road 6, street 13 in Wazir Akbar Khan in Kabul. Guess where I lived? On the corner of road 5, street 13 in Wazir Akbar Khan!! Our houses were only about 30 metres apart from each other!!!)
The beauty of Muslim women sewing for a Christian celebration is acknowledged and appreciated by all. “Mary and Jesus are very respected by us even though we are Muslim,” said Saeid. “We are very happy to be a part of your Christmas celebrations as new New Zealanders.”
For me, the inclusion of Muslim women expresses the ethos WFC perfectly. “I wanted to remove rubbish and stress from Christmas because with five kids it was doing my head in. The product itself is designed to last for life, giving the planet a break from the waste we generate each year. But it has also been great to employ women at home -- often women who find it difficult to find employment. I have one woman in Lake Hāwea who has not been able to work for over a decade due to Multiple Sclerosis but now she’s generating her own income. But to then also include Muslim woman stepped it up a notch in social responsibility and I think it encapsulates the real New Zealand where we can all get along and celebrate each other’s culture.”