Christmas arrives in Nouméa with Santa’s garden
We couldn’t believe our eyes. Armed with iPad/GPS, we decided on a whim this evening to go in search of a house I had read about in the local newspaper – a veritable South Pacific homage to Christmas, Santa and yes, Christmas lights. As an American, I grew up with decorated houses and Santas on rooftops. True, one doesn’t see them quite as much (or ever) in Paris (though one does see quite elaborate Christmas windows at the higher end department stores). What, I wondered, could they, would they, do in Nouméa?
An institution in Nouméa, “Santa’s garden” (Le jardin du pere Noel), celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. It is the work and love of Mr. and Mrs. Claus (otherwise known as Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Martin). Having never heard of this fully lit house and garden, we met and spoke with Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Martin told us this was her 20th year lighting up her neighbourhood and bringing Christmas to Nouméa. “And every year, all the decorations are different!” she informed us. I believed her. But once you saw the plethora of decorations, the question quickly arose, “And where do you keep all the other decorations?” (We must ask her the next time we visit!)
It takes Mr. and Mrs. Claus no less than three months to transform their home and garden into a veritable Christmas paradise. Having done it for the last 20 years (and been supported by the town hall for the last 8), they know what they’re doing. Most of the decorations come from Australia, where the two retirees regularly visit to pick up supplies. But this year, for the 20th anniversary, they went all out with fibre-optic decorations and light fountains from as far away as China.
When you see this (and you must), you will ask yourselves, “How in the world do they pay the electricity bill?” Literally several thousand light bulbs and spotlights are lit every night from 7pm to 10:30pm from 1 to 31 December. But Mrs. Claus says it is a pleasure – they do it for the children (and the children come back year after year, some every day in December). They plan their vacations around shopping trips for Santa’s garden and use volunteers to help with crowd control (especially from the 20th, when it is impossible to drive down the street) and security.
This year they’ve outdone themselves with trees that light up when you clap and a rapping monkey (among many other delights) … Santa Claus will be in his garden as well from 22-24 December (Saturday-Monday) from 7pm to 9:30pm. An extra treat for those who don’t mind crowds. And if you have a letter for Santa, there is a special box where you can drop it in – Mr. and Mrs. Claus have thought of everything!
So where can you mind this “merveille”? At Anse Vata, behind the Best Western Promende hotel, at 2 rue du Pasteur Bénignus. Note that the street is one way; it is best to come down it from rue du Pasteur Maurice Leenhardt. Best also to park and walk – you will appreciate it best on foot as there’s a whole garden in the back to explore. Will your children love it? Will you? I can tell you that we had never in our lives seen anything like it. Our 6-year-old son wondered about the number of light bulbs and the electricity bill (you’ll see what we mean when you see it) – he was amazed and enchanted as well (as were we)!
What are the dates and times?
Every night in December (from 1-31 December): 7pm to 10:30pm
Enjoy – and say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Claus for us!