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.
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.