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.
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.
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.
Merry Christmas, one and all.