Christmas Festivities in New Zealand
Christmas in New Zealand is celebrated in much the same way as Christmas in the northern hemisphere, with one major difference—it's in the middle of the summer! Whilst retailers entice Christmas shoppers with snow-fronted window displays of Father Christmas resplendent in red suit and white beard, outside the malls the weather is usually hot and sunny. Little wonder then, that a Kiwi Christmas also features cold beer, sandals and shorts, barbecues and beaches.
If you're in New Zealand for Christmas, then you will still have a wonderful yuletide, just be ready to adapt a few northern traditions when you're down under:
In many towns and cities, Santa Parades celebrate the start of the festive season (often in November). These parades include floats, cars and trucks decorated by local communities and businesses, marching bands, clubs and societies and of course Santa Claus, who may arrive by jet boat before being pulled along a sleigh (which closely resembles a truck or ute). Lots of people turn out to view these parades, sing along with songs and wave at the parade participants—great for the children, who often pick up free lollies (sweets), flags and balloons.
Christmas Food and Drink
Whilst many New Zealanders still cook a 'traditional' Christmas roast for Christmas Day consisting of turkey or ham, trimmings and roasted vegetables, just as popular are barbecues and picnics at the beach or bach. Burgers and sausages may prove to be a staple 'barbie' offering, but you'll also find that really delicious fare gets cooked up including salmon and venison, accompanied by a wide range of salads and chilled foods.
Traditional fruit Christmas cake, pudding and mince pies are still eagerly consumed by New Zealanders, but dessert for Christmas lunch is often pavlova, a delicious mixture of meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit.
Food left out for Santa by New Zealand children can still be the traditional glass of sherry and a mince pie, but more up-to-date snacks for the man in red include: apple pie, cheese scones, cookies and a healthy, refreshing glass of milk.
Traditional Christmas hymns are sung in church and cathedral services throughout New Zealand and open-air candle-lit community carol services are popular, particularly on Christmas Eve. Other Christmas songs have been adapted or written to celebrate a warm, sunny Christmas – you may hear any of the following: Snoopy's Christmas, Sticky Beak the Kiwi, A Kiwiana Christmas, Te Harinui and The Southern Cross Looks Down.
On Christmas Day itself, pretty much anything goes. Presents are often exchanged before lunch, but the rest of the day may involve any of the following: formal Christmas lunch (turkey or ham plus trimmings), 'bring-a-plate' parties, Christmas open house, beach barbecues, picnics, outdoor games for groups (cricket, volleyball, rounders, soccer, etc) and any of the usual recreational activities enjoyed by New Zealanders. Morning and evening services are held in churches and cathedrals, sometimes including carol recitals by the resident choir.
Other New Zealand Christmas Traditions
Christmas traditions in New Zealand can also include:
- Christmas gifts and cards
- Christmas trees and decorations
- Christmas parties for work colleagues
- The Queen's speech
- Christmas firework displays
- Christmas lights
- Christmas crackers.
Christmas Summer Holidays
As in most countries that celebrate Christmas, for most New Zealanders, Christmas is a time to be spent relaxing and having fun with family and friends. It also heralds the start of the summer holidays and after Christmas Day, there is a seemingly mass exodus from the cities and town to the countryside for camping, baches, holiday homes and outdoor recreation. If you are visiting New Zealand in late December through to early February, you should be aware that local New Zealanders are also on holiday and accommodation in popular locations in particular, will book out extremely early.