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.
New Zealand Christmas Traditions
Shop at a Christmas market
One of the best New Zealand Christmas traditions is the Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a chore. There are plenty of Christmas markets to choose from across the country. Go underground in Wellington, where beneath Frank Kitts Park you’ll find plenty of stalls selling unique gifts. Alternatively, head for the Tapawera Country Christmas Twilight Fair at the Hidden Sculpture Garden near Nelson where the gift barn bulges with clothes, jewellery, toys and crafts. Awapuni Racecourse at Palmerston North hosts its Magic of Christmas Night Market, where once you’ve shopped you can take advantage of a gift wrapping service to have your presents professionally wrapped.
Post your Christmas cards
There’s only one place to post your Christmas cards if you’re in New Zealand, and that’s Bethlehem. Once a town in its own right, these days it’s a suburb of Tauranga. Attach your Christmas stamps and leave your cards with New Zealand Post safe in the knowledge that they’ll be franked with a rather festive star, then head to the beach to enjoy Tauranga’s legendary surf.
Visit New Zealand’s largest Christmas tree
In the northern hemisphere we’ll be festooning our spruce, fir or pine tree with tinsel, but in New Zealand the tree synonymous with Christmas is the pohutukawa. This endemic coastal tree comes into bloom from November to January and boy, what a show it puts on with its fabulous red flowers. The largest specimen in the country can be found at Te Araroa, over twenty metres tall and around forty metres wide. It’s thought to be about 350 years old.
Go and see a Santa parade
If you’re going to celebrate the run up to Christmas properly, then you have to go and see Santa at one of New Zealand’s festive parades. Auckland’s Christmas parade has been held since 1934 and takes place at the end of November. The colourful floats and marching bands make their way along a 2.2km route that begins at the corner of Cook Street and Mayoral Drive, before travelling down Queen Street where it passes the huge Santa who oversees the action from Farmer’s Corner. If you miss it, don’t worry; Christchurch and Wellington’s Santa parades don’t take place until December.