This is not the first Christmas that I have spent in a tropical environment, but it was definitely the weirdest. Despite speaking the same language, being a colony of the same country, and having many cultural similarities – a Kiwi christmas is definitely a completely different creature than a Canadian christmas.
Anne and I sweating it out at the Auckland Christmas parade
Firstly, and most obviously is the weather. Its hot. And sunny. And all the schools are having their summer break at the moment. Which means loads of families are heading to their bachs (beach houses) and spending their summer vacation engaging in various summer activities. Like BBQ’s, or swimming in the sea, or water sports. So is it really a surprise that Santa would want to also take part in these activities? The result is santa decoriations in shop windows and on buildings, of santa wearing flip flops and lazing in his hammock, or of santa donning his red and white wet suit and going surfing or jet skiing.
Another favourite Kiwi christmas decoration that I spotted was this one: A holiday wreath which was decorating the street lights in a small town in the Coromandel region. Look closely to see what is decorating this holiday wreath. Yes, thats right… flip flops, or as the Kiwi’s would call them, Jandels.
The second very obvious difference between Kiwis and Canadians during the Christmas season is their shopping habits. Kiwi culture is generally more relaxed than North American culture, and this is very obvious in how they shop. When I lived in Canada and worked at a small cafe in a mall, we would be swamped with customers lining up and being generally horribly disagreeable people for about 6 weeks leading up to Christmas. Here in New Zealand, the shop I work in was quiet enough for me to be bored out of my face in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Even on boxing day, when it was a bit busier, there was still no need for more than three people in the store. Most stores actually shut down for most of the holiday season, and it is not uncommon to see that some have closed for 4 weeks of holidays! That would be retail suicide in North America. But here, during the holidays, the shops and cities are quieter a everyone wants to escape to the sea side with their families.
A few weeks before Christmas was the Auckland Christmas parade. I remember watching the Canadian Christmas parade on television when I was a child and marvelling at the intricate floats and world class marching bands. I don’t know if I can use those same adjectives for the Auckland Christmas parade, but it was a spectacle none the less.
A Christmas Kiwi, complete with Santa hat and jandels
Someone forget to tell these guys that this is a Christmas parade, not a Halloween parade
New Zealand is in a recession, I hope that explains the recycling of costumes that is obviously happening here
So I did Christmas eve the Kiwi way. At a beach house, in the sun, eating fish and chips. Some Kiwi friends of mine had rented a beach house and were celebrating Christmas with friends. I went up on the 23rd, for some scuba diving in Goat Island (more on that later) and stayed until Christmas eve. The house was about an hour north of Auckland on the east coast of New Zealand. We spent the evening hanging out on the beach and hiking around the coast line. I have to admit, it didn’t really feel like Christmas, but it was still very lovely to hang out with interesting people and share food with new and old friends. And isn’t that what Christmas is about anyways?
Lilac enjoying the view
Taking a break on our Leigh costal walk
The beach near the house