Christmas in the Antipodes

What a great topic to introduce myself as one of Choc Lit’s newest authors.

I’m Zana, I’m a Kiwi and, typical of our nocturnal icon, I’m busy all day when y’all are sleeping.  And while I’m reading accounts of snow and storms in the northern hemisphere, I’m fanning myself and sipping on iced drinks.

I know Christmas is nearly upon us because the days are long now, stretching into blissful summer. Most excitingly of all, the pohutukawa trees – NZ’s Christmas tree – are all coming into bloom. They are huge, stunning trees that cling to cliffs and fringe the beaches and in December they are smothered in scarlet and crimson flowers, jauntily outlining NZ in red for the festive season.

The trees at the waterline at the far end are budding - should be in full bloom for Xmas.

The trees at the waterline at the far end are budding - should be in full bloom for Xmas.

It’s also Christmas because the craziness of shopping is done on hot, sticky days.  At the same time,  it’s the end of our academic year so parents and teachers are bombarded with end of school events which overlap Christmas celebrations. In addition, it’s the beginning of the long summer holiday so everyone’s preparing for their camping, boating, baching (seaside homes) holidays in January.  It’s a frenzied time – no wonder we all just collapse on Christmas Day. Don’t arrive in January as I did on my first journey here. NZ closes down for the month!

Christmas Day itself? Depends on the family. Some do the traditional huge lunch but many families opt for Christmas dinner when it’s cooler – and besides, we are all out swimming, surfing, fishing, building sandcastles etc.

The food is generally the same although some – shock horror  – dispense with the turkey and just do bbqs! I’ve eaten ice-cream versions of Christmas pudding and while they are delicious, I still firmly cling to hot Christmas pud slathered in brandy butter. A traditional Christmas dessert in NZ is pavlova but despite being here for many years now, I still don’t get it. But I only say the last in a whisper in case my citizenship is revoked!

Carols by candlelight and Christmas lights don’t work quite so well down here as it only finally gets dark around 9pm, which is late when you’ve got young kids.  But Santa still comes down chimney pots – though many of us don’t have them – to fill stockings, dispense presents etc. His poor helpers in shopping malls however, can have sweat running down from their hot woolly hats and into their thick woolly beards. I’ve seen a number of Santas compromising with flip-flops to counter the heat.

Of course, individual families also have their own private traditions. Have you got one you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

22 thoughts on “Christmas in the Antipodes

  1. What a fabulous first postng, Zana! I’ve said it before – but WELCOME to the Choc Lit family! Your post is absolutely fascinating – and intriguing. New Zealand is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit (hubs has family there)- even more so now. I can’t at all get my head around Christmas in blazing heat – but LOVE the image of Father Christmas in flip flops. How on earth though – can anyone not only juggle Xmas, but also the end of the school year AND the summer holidays? Jeez. My personal hell springs to mind – and you even have the heat to finish the image off! Can’t the government change the timing of Christmas day, LOL?
    I wish you a wonderful Xmas – and summer holiday season! I am going away now to tell myself off for moaning about all the preparation I’ve still to do for Xmas. It could be so much worse LOL. I believe you’ve managed to put it into perspective 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing, Zana. So lovely to have you onboard SX

  2. Great post, Zana and welcome again! I can’t quite get my head around having Christmas in the heat and Santa in flip flops. In fact I might have to lie down. As far as family traditions are concerned it’s just everyone piles round to me and we eat until we all explode! Then after lunch we play ‘which bit of the exploded body fits which person?’ It beats a festive jigsaw… Anyway happy Christmas and make sure you have plenty of sunscreen :)x

  3. Lovely posting, Zana, and welcome again to the Choc Lit family.

    I’m looking out of my study window in South Oxfordshire, and I’m seeing the cloak of ice that shrouds my car. I’m going to close my eyes and dream of being in NZ …

    Liz X

  4. It’s lovely to hear how Christmas feels to you, Zana. It’s sunny here on the coast of west Wales for once and I can see the sea and mountains (when it’s clear!) from my study so I feel fortunate in my own right… but oh to feel some warmth again as it’s been cold and wet all year. Reading your post, I was trying to get my head round the idea of planning all the activities we associate with July to fit in with Christmas – no wonder NZ shuts down after that! Where did you live before moving there – was it a huge contrast? As to our traditions – we do all the usual family things and take a walk on the beach, but we always raise a glass to loved ones who can’t be with us and I remember my dad.

  5. Welcome to the Choc Lit family, Zana! I’d love to have Christmas in the sunshine. Maybe one day! Our Christmas tradition is decorating the family tree with all the stuff our children made when they were little. It’s all getting a bit bashed and battered now, but it holds so many happy memories.

  6. A terrific first blog, Zana and what a beautiful photograph. New Zealand is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, I’ve only ever heard good reports of both the scenery and the friendliness of the people. Someone told me that being there is like being back in time a little, the pace is slower and more relaxed. But reading your account of Christmas there, it sounds just as hectic as here! The Christmas tradition for me is that all the family come together, no matter where anyone is living, Christmas is sacrosanct to share with loved ones.

    MargaretK x

  7. Can I do this post in green……billious envy green? Shivering in my attic here as the sun has just gone down (barely 4 p.m.) and the temperature is dropping.
    Fabulous post! I just adore those red flowers….:) Thanks for sharing it all with us – and maybe be prepared for an influx of CL visitors next Christmas…:)

  8. Hi Zana – Welcome and add me to the list of the green with envy. We will have to charter a boat – I don’t do planes if I can help it – and have a Choc-lit author away day :)to visit.

  9. Morning has dawned and great to see all your comments – thank you for such a warm welcome.

    Sarah, you lightheartedly hit on a topic some NZers are beginning to discuss – not move Xmas as such but to make far more of a festival around Matariki – the Maori celebration which occurs with the arrival of the Seven Sisters (Matariki) in the night skies in July. Already there are a number of mid-year Christmas parties too.

    Mandy, I love the exploded body jigsaw! I’m a great believer in lying down after the dinner to let gravity take its course. Sunscreen? Absolutely. The sun is fierce down here.

  10. Ah Liz, now Oxfordshire shrouded in ice sounds very beautiful. Do you have white Christmases very often?

    Chris, Wales has a special place in my heart as both parents were Welsh but I grew up in Zimbabwe so for me heat and Christmas are inextricably linked. However, even after years here, I still cannot believe the luxury of swimming in the sea on Christmas Day,

  11. The battered Christmas decorations are the best ones, aren’t they Margaret. As you say, lots of happy memories contained within them.

    MargaretK, it is a joke that the airline pilot says, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are coming into land in NZ. Please set your watch back thirty years.” How lovely to have the gathering together of families being sacrosanct. For me, the family being altogether is the best part too.

  12. What a beautiful pic. you’ve given us Zana – stunning. Have been intrigued by New Zealand since seeing all the wonderful scenery in LOTR. My friend was the same and she and her husband took off on a road trip there. Great first blog.

    Liv x

  13. Greetings green Linda and green Evonne 🙂 Any time you can get down here, we’d be delighted to see you. I’m excited as this is the second year that we have British cousins coming to stay for a holiday. The greatest drawback of living in NZ is that we aren’t really on the way to anywhere – except the Antartic. Not exactly a place people can drop in on…

  14. Welcome, Zana! I have just eaten a kiwi fruit in your honour. (Normally it would be wine from the Marlborough Valley, but 6am is a bit early for that.) We have a new family tradition that has only been going 3 years – my daughter cooks Christmas dinner. Can’t wait!

  15. Now I want to experience a New Zealand Christmas! I think snowy, northern hemisphere ones are the best but I do like the sound of all the contrasts you describe. And love those trees!

  16. Hi Juliet, I love your gastronomical arrangements: kiwifruit, NZ wine AND a cooking daughter! I would toast you in a Hawkes Bay merlot but it’s only breakfast time.

  17. Hey Gill, I confess, I’d love to do a snowy Christmas a la Bing Crosby. I’ve had chilly London ones but never white ones – it’s on my bucket list!

  18. Zana – What a fabulous post, and so beautifully written. Makes me want to go to NZ now, but probably not in January as you say! Growing up in Denmark and being used the snow at Christmas (not always but most of the time), it’s almost impossible for me to imagine going surfing or building sandcastles on December the 25th. I try, but I just can’t my head around it! Lokking forward to hearing more from Down Under.

  19. Hi Henriette, thanks for dropping by. Denmark sounds like a beautiful country too. Funnily enough, people from Scandinavia and Russia complain of being cold in Northland during winter – average temperature 15-18 degrees! It’s because we don’t have any central heating so don’t come later than May 🙂

  20. Wow, Zana, I never thought I would want anything other than a snowy Christmas, but you might just have changed my mind! Those trees are gorgeous and the rest of it sounds wonderful too! But how can you not like pavlova??? That would be the clincher for me – I’ll go anywhere for pavlova 🙂 Great post – welcome again!

  21. I really love your description of Christmas in New Zealand. So evocative. I’ve visited several times and didn’t think it got as hot as that, but I guess the North Island and South Island vary hugely in temperature. Beautiful picture, too. Great post!

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