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'.