Our first ever event was held on the banks of the Wairoa River with 150 people, a donkey, and real baby. Originally held on Christmas Eve and known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’, 1996 was the first ever event celebrating Christmas in New Zealand’s own Bethlehem.
After continuing to grow and develop, the event moved to a new venue on the rear sports field of Bethlehem College. Still held on Christmas Eve, ‘The Night Before Christmas’ continued to grow as a traditional carols by candlelight service.
In 2009 ‘The Night Before Christmas’ moved up the road to a new home at the Bethlehem Town Centre carpark. The Night Before Christmas continued to grow in size and quality with new entertainment, larger production, and a fireworks display. We borrowed sound and vision equipment from Bethlehem Baptist Church for the event, however it would always need to be reinstalled straight after the show to be ready for the Christmas Day service the next day!
After years of continued growth the event was moved down the road to the larger and greener pastures of Mills Reef Winery. For the first time the event was not held on Christmas Eve, so the name was officially changed to, ‘A Night Before Christmas’.
Unfortunately stormy weather forced the show to be cancelled halfway through the night for the safety of performers (and the comfort of those huddled under umbrellas and tarpaulins!)
A Night Before Christmas was now becoming a significant event in the Bay of Plenty with roughly 7000 people attending. We began to add more food trucks, marquees, entertainment, and featured Late 80s Mercedes as our headline act. The field of Mills Reef was absolutely packed, the weather was incredible, and Christmas joy was well and truly ringing out in Bethlehem.
With new construction developments at Mills Reef and the need for a bigger venue for our event, A Night Before Christmas moved 1km down the road to the sports field of Bethlehem College where we have been ever since.