Christmas in New Zealand is a festive and cheerful holiday celebrated during the Southern Hemisphere's summer season. While the traditions may resemble those of other English-speaking countries, they are adapted to the warm weather and outdoor lifestyle of New Zealand. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in New Zealand:
Since Christmas falls during the New Zealand summer, outdoor activities are a significant part of the celebration. Many families spend Christmas at the beach, go camping, have picnics, or enjoy barbecues in their backyards. Swimming, boating, and other water-based activities are common.
While traditional Christmas decorations are used, it's common to see kiwi-themed decorations, such as Santa Claus in shorts or pohutukawa tree ornaments. Pohutukawa trees, with their bright red flowers, are often referred to as the "New Zealand Christmas tree" and are in full bloom during the holiday season.
Christmas trees, whether real or artificial, are decorated with lights and ornaments, and many households have their own unique styles. Some may even decorate native New Zealand plants or trees.
Many towns and cities in New Zealand host Christmas parades featuring festive floats, music, and entertainment. These parades often include Santa Claus arriving on a boat, given the nautical theme of the country.
For those who observe the religious aspect of Christmas, attending church services, such as midnight Mass, is a tradition. It's an opportunity for reflection and worship.
Christmas dinner is a time for family gatherings and festive meals. The meal often includes roast lamb or ham, as well as seafood, given New Zealand's abundant seafood resources. Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert topped with fresh fruit, is a favorite Christmas dessert.
Exchanging gifts is a common tradition, and children eagerly anticipate the arrival of Santa Claus, known as "Father Christmas." Gifts are often opened on Christmas morning.
Christmas caroling is a part of the celebration, with traditional carols sung in various settings, from church services to community events.
Many New Zealanders take time off work during the Christmas and New Year period, making it a popular time for family vacations and road trips.
Some people in New Zealand participate in acts of charity during the Christmas season, including donating to those in need and supporting local charities and community organizations.
Many New Zealand homes are adorned with festive Christmas lights, creating a colorful and joyful atmosphere, especially after nightfall.
December 26th is known as "Boxing Day" in New Zealand, and it's a public holiday. It's a time for relaxation, sports events, and sales, similar to other Commonwealth countries.
Christmas in New Zealand is marked by a unique blend of traditional customs and the outdoor, summery lifestyle that characterizes the country. It's a time for family, friends, and community, with an emphasis on relaxation and enjoyment of the warm weather.
If you're a resident of the northern hemisphere, you'll find Christmas to be rather different in New Zealand. Owing to the country's European heritage and especially British roots, many of the same traditions can be observed – sometimes, with a twist. With practically the opposite climate and different time of the year altogether, the Kiwi Christmas is seemingly unique and a lot of fun. New Zealand, much like her neighbor Australia, welcomes the Christmas festivites right in the middle of summer, in December (hard to get your head around it I know, but such is the southern hemisphere).
Naturally, many spend their Christmas camping at the beach or at their Baches – holiday homes.
Many towns in the country exhibit a Santa parade which is characterised by decorated floats, bands and marching girls. This is held at any time mid November onwards, usually on a Sunday. Although, truly a complete commercial event, everyone enjoys it thoroughly.The largest and best-known of these parades is the Auckland Santa Parade. It has been quite a feature of Christmas in Auckland ever since 1934. In addition to attracting thousands of spectators every year and it is an extremely enjoyable event for all children.
Owing to the warm climate, Santa can be spotted wearing 'jandals' – the typical New Zealand sandals and sometimes he even exchanges his red coat for a New Zealand 'All Blacks' rugby jersey. While the children are seen leaving out carrots for Rudolph, Santa is more likely to be left a beer and some pineapple chunks! In the bigger, metropolitan cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton, elaborate Christmas light shows and displays, are the talk of the day. Church is not attended regularly by majority of the New Zealanders. However, the Christmas services - the Midnight Mass held at midnight on Christmas Eve, is expectedly quite popular. Cathedrals and churches are likely to be found filled and overflowing with the crowd. The Nine Lessons and Carols at Anglican cathedrals are some of the other Christmas services held in the country. Carol services are carried out throughout the country - even in small towns and rural areas.
New Zealand specializes in some carols of it's own. These include 'Te Haranui', 'Christmas in New Zealand' and 'A Kiwiana Christmas'. These are a must at the carol services around the country.
Decorating the Christmas tree is one of the most integral traditions of Christmas around the world. New Zealand is no exception. However, in this country, kiwis too have their own Christmas Tree -- the Pōhutukawa. It usually grows to a large height and adorns itself with bright red flowers which not only serve as popular decorations, but also feature on Christmas cards. These flowers have been associated with Christmas since the mid 1800s. The Pōhutukawa is also of considerable significance in Maori culture.
Many New Zealanders prefer barbecue lunches on Christmas and this relatively new tradition is increasing in popularity. We usually find ham slices, venison or some other kind of exotic meat roasting on the barbeque on this day, and once in a while shrimps and other fish make an appearance as well. White bait fritters are also quite popular. Christmas Crackers on the dinner table is not an uncommon sight. However, the Christmas meal in itself is fast losing its charm and becoming an increasingly casual affair. Nevertheless, the traditional Christmas spread of turkey, ham and roasted potatoes are still equally popular, accompanied by salads and needless to say, coupled with a glass of bubbly.
Although even during peak summer some may prefer having a hot fruit pudding with custard and ice cream for dessert, colder, more refreshing desserts remain unbeaten in popularity during the Christmas season. Some of them are - pavlova and whipped cream, meringues, cold fruit salad, jelly and ice cream. The traditional Christmas cakes and plum pudding remain a favourite. A range of exotic soft drinks serve the same purpose. Typically on Christmas day, the presents are opened when the whole family is gathered together, just before lunch.
New Zealand is an extremely, culturally diverse country and many of the cultures infused in it's doamin, do not embrace 'the season to be jolly' in the same way as the early European settlers and their close descendants did. A contributing reason would be the influence of the Maori natives.
Nevertheless, Christmas, like in all countries across the globe, is a special time for all New Zealanders. It's the time when the whole family comes together and one can enjoy the pleasant New Zealand summer outdoors. In the Maori language, Merry Christmas is called 'Meri Kirihimete'.