Celebrating Christmas New Zealand style

Celebrating Christmas New Zealand Style: merry-christmas-1032393

What makes a Kiwi Christmas special? Here’s a roundup of some of the distinctive traditions and uniquely New Zealand accompaniments to the festive season.

Celebrating Christmas New Zealand Style

Supplement your tree with a Pohutukawa

The first time someone referred to the pohutukawa tree as a Christmas tree was back in 1867, when an Austrian geologist going by the impressive name of Ferdinand von Hochstetter observed its Christmas blossom and noted that the settlers of the time decorated their churches and homes with its branches. Since then, this native tree with its distinctive red flowers has become a Kiwi icon for the festive season alongside the fir that adorns most living rooms.

Celebrating Christmas New Zealand Style: Pohutakawa Tree Flower (New Zealand Christmas Tree)
Pohutakawa Tree Flower (New Zealand Christmas Tree): Photo on Flickr by Jocelyn Kinghorn / CC BY-SA 2.0

Enjoy the summer weather

Unlike the northern hemisphere, New Zealand Christmas falls in the Antipodean summer, so to Europeans and North Americans there’s an incongruous mix of snowy window displays and Santa all toasty in his bright red suit against a backdrop of sunny blue skies and warm temperatures. It’s still customary to have a festive plate of roast turkey or ham followed by a large bowl of Christmas pud or pavlova, but a cold beer and a beach barbecue will go down just as well.

Have a sing song

Is there anything that make you feel more Christmassy than belting out carols on Christmas Eve? Once you’ve sung your O Come All Ye Faithfuls, add a bit of folk into the mix with the likes of Sticky Beak the Kiwi and A Kiwiana Christmas. King Ihaka’s “A pukeko in a ponga tree” reimagines the classic “Twelve Days of Christmas” and some hymns, such as “Marie te po/Silent Night” have been translated into Maori giving them a uniquely NZ flavour.

Celebrating Christmas New Zealand Style: New Zealand Christmas Singalong
New Zealand Christmas Singalong: Photo on Flickr by Abri le Roux / CC BY 2.0

And finally, here’s one New Zealand Christmas tradition that shouldn’t be taken for granted…

Take the day off

A century and a half ago, you may well have taken Christmas Day off, but it wouldn’t have been a legal right. Even as late as the turn of the 20th century, newspapers were published on December 25th and shops and pubs often opened. Legislation passed in 1873, 1894 and 1910 strengthened people’s rights to having a day’s holiday with pay. Of course, there are some who must work, such as those in the health sector; they’re guaranteed time off in lieu and extra pay for working when the rest of us are lounging around at home.

Celebrating Christmas New Zealand Style in Auckland
Christmas in Auckland: Photo on Flickr by Russell James Smith / CC BY-NC 2.0

Merry Christmas, one and all.

About JuliaHammond

Website: http://www.juliahammond.co.uk

Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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One Response

  1. New Zealand Christmas Traditions - Go4Travel Blog

    […] Whether you like it or not, Christmas is fast approaching. Here in the UK, there’s suddenly a chill in the air, the perfume adverts on television are coming thick and fast, and weekends bring a choice of fetes, fairs and markets all offering to solve everyone’s present buying dilemmas. Christmas in the southern hemisphere, snow-free, is still just as festive, but with a summer twist. Here are some New Zealand Christmas traditions to help you count down to the holidays Kiwi-style. […]


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