Going to New Zealand during Christmas will be like an embarking on a beach holiday complete with the sun, sand and surf. Apart from being a very exciting prospect, New Zealand has a lot to offer in terms of Christmas celebrations and customs. The usual hullabaloo of Christmas, with the partying, caroling and gift exchanges are all a part of New Zealand's Christmas culture. However, the question you really ought to be asking yourself is what sets Christmas in New Zealand apart? Most of the New Zealand Christmas traditions come from the English settlers who established themselves in the country during the 17th century. The first Christmas dinner was held, when Abel Tasman's men, celebrated by barbequing fresh pork from the ship's menagerie, accompanied with Red Wine in 1642. Instead of seeing people sitting by cold fireplaces and narrating stories over a hot 'cuppa', it is very likely that you will bump into men and women, sunbathing on the beach and witnessing parades amidst the scorching heat in December. Christmas trees, Christmas lunches and people wishing 'Meri Kirihimete' (Merry Christmas) to each other, are probably what you will witness, when you disembark in New Zealand.
Customs, Traditions And Celebrations
For starters; red, white and green have nothing to do with snow, robins and hollies. In New Zealand, these colors stand for a lot more. Red stands for 'pohutukawa' (New Zealand's Christmas tree), the green stands for the lush blanket of vegetation around the country and the white, represents the golden sands of the various beaches in the country. All of this attributes to a very relaxed festive atmosphere in the country. Not much is done and not much is spent.
A 'Kiwi' Christmas
Most of the Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations are influenced by English practices. However, if you are looking for a more seasonal experience with native customs involved, here are a few practices that are customarily performed during Christmas every year. The Christmas tree (pohutukawa) is decorated with scarlet flowers and trinkets every year.
The 'Hangi' is the traditional, Christmas roast dinner, and is actually cooked in a pit underground by groups called the Maori. This not only makes the food taste more interesting, but also adds an earthy essence to the food, reminding the people of their 'roots' and to stay 'grounded'. The food essentially comprises of 'kumara', pumpkin, pork, chicken, vegetables, stuffing and potatoes. The smoked food is also believed to be extremely healthy during the festive season. Following the Hangi, the people gather around a bonfire and sing Christmas carols all through the night.
Barbequing is another important tradition during Christmas in New Zealand. Groups of people flock together and decide to barbeque their food in the backyards, on the beaches or at community parks. Christmas feasts are more of a casual affair, and families like to relax and enjoy their food while grabbing a can of beer on sipping some wine. Christmas barbeques usually comprise of the choicest seafood of the season, different cuts of meats and organic vegetables.
No 'Kiwi' Christmas celebration is complete without the most popular dessert; Pavlovla. A white, plum pudding, this standard Christmas dessert in New Zealand is usually glazed with honey, fresh fruit and nuts.
Santa And The Beach
As queer as it may sound, one will not witness sleighs, reindeers or the secret sneaking around at night. The jolly Santa Claus usually wears red and white attire in scorching temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and delivers gifts to children-on the beach! There is no guessing why families choose to stay at the beach on the day of Christmas. The Santa Claus in New Zealand usually wears sunglasses, beach boots, speedos and shorts. According to tradition, the Santa Claus has to take part in any one activity of his choice at the beach. He could be paragliding, sailing, or even rowing the Maori canoe. After spending time on the beach, it is believed that he visits children in small villages and townships, driving a fire engine, and tossing candy and gifts to them through the window.
Some Orthodox and Catholic communities may decide to attend Masses at Church, whereas, most other people line the sides of roads to witness the famous, Santa parades. Communities get together and watch Santa and his trusted elves walking around cities, displaying brightly colored floats.
Christmas in New Zealand is incomplete without heading out to the beach. Though, groups of people attend Masses at church, many just choose to laze around in the blazing sun, soaking in the Vitamin D and binging on some yummy Christmas eats. Many universal Christmas customs may be adhered to, but New Zealand is still very unique and upbeat in its Christmas traditions.
Christmas in New Zealand is a joyous one. If you are heading to New Zealand for Christmas this year and you want to know more about Kiwi customs, traditions and celebrations during Christmas, read on.