Christmas in New Zealand is the complete opposite of traditional images of Christmas. Movies, books and Christmas cards nearly always show Christmas as cold and snowy, with people wrapped up in their warm clothes and gathered around a crackling fire. In New Zealand though, it’s warm and (if we’re lucky) sunny, with people in shorts, t-shirts and jandals.
One of my traditions that I start Christmas day with is getting up early to watch cartoons and What Now. If there’s nothing much on TV I bring out my old favourite videos, Red Boots for Christmas and The Santa Bears. When I was younger my family would go and have a picnic in Hagley Park for lunch where everyone would bring something different to share. These days my family brings lunch to my parents’ house.
Christmas can be a really expensive time of the year, so we decided a few years ago to just have a present exchange. You have to buy 1 present for 1 person and there is a limit to how much you can spend. You might get a serious present or something silly, and there’s not so much mess to clean up afterwards.
At night after we’re all full of turkey, ham, new potatoes, ambrosia and Christmas Pudding, we sit down and watch the Royal Variety Concert on TV.
What are your Christmas traditions?
Snow angels, eggnog, wool sweaters and Christmas all go hand in hand for me. I’m from the U.S. and I’m used to Christmas in winter! Living in New Zealand and celebrating Christmas in summer has been quite a surprise. Since moving here, I’ve bought a Christmas tree and gone surfing in the same day!
I’ve lived in many states across America. In most, a blanket of snow usually arrived by Christmas Eve! When we lived in Iowa, it was sooo cold all winter that huge icicles would grow from our house. We used to collect them and plant an “icicle garden” in a heap of snow. We then poured food coloring and water over the icicles and viola! A beautiful icicle garden! After that, we would go inside to warm up with some steamy Yogi Tea–one of my family’s Christmas traditions! Yogi Tea is spicy and brewed with ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon and cardamon. Yum!
After a big vegetarian Christmas Eve dinner we would all open one present, saving the rest for Christmas morning. When my younger brothers and sisters were little, one of their traditions was to wake up as early as 2am on Christmas morning to discover what Santa had left in their stockings and beneath the Christmas tree. Every year, Santa left mandarin oranges in everyone’s stockings and at least one present under the tree.
My family has more traditions than can fit in this post! But since moving to New Zealand I’ve kept some and been able to make new ones. One of my favorite new traditions is to sing Handel’s Messiah with a choir here in Christchurch. When I sing the words, “For unto us a child is born,” I know Christmas is right around the corner!
For me, Christmas in New Zealand is a blend of old and new traditions. What are some of your family’s traditions?
Check out the library’s cool Christmas page!
Christmas is a time of traditions, the things that you do year after year. There are lots of different traditions from all over the world, including:
- In Brazil, fireworks go off in the skies over the cities and huge Christmas ‘trees’ of electric lights can be seen against the night skies in major cities such as Brasilia, San Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro.
- In Greece, very few presents are given to each other. Instead, small gifts are given to hospitals and orphanages.
- In Switzerland, bell ringing has become a tradition, and each village competes with the next when calling people to midnight mass. After the service, families gather to share huge homemade doughnuts called ringli and hot chocolate.
- In Wales, taffy making is an important part of the Welsh Christmas. This involves making a special kind of chewy toffee from brown sugar and butter. It is boiled and then pulled so that it becomes lovely and glossy.
What are your Christmas traditions? We will be sharing our Christmas traditions with you over the next couple of weeks but we would love to know how you celebrate Christmas.