We met Naiomi and Mark at a church building in Brisbane, Australia on our first Sunday there. Not to make it awkward, but it was in the “mother’s lounge”. We sort of took it over and spent the first week of church together in that room – all 6 of us (as they have a kid just barely younger than Carter). From then on we knew we were besties that happened to live on opposite sides of the world. And—as it turned out—they had just recently moved from New Zealand, which is Scott’s favorite country of all time.
We asked Naiomi to divulge a bit about what makes Christmas in the land of Kiwis unique, and she enlightened us on some wonderful findings. Without further ado, we introduce: 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas Part IV: Christmas In New Zealand.
What is a typical Christmas in New Zealand like?
I can’t say what Christmas is like for EVERYONE in New Zealand but for me personally the biggest and most consistent thing was always that Christmas time was Family time. People all over New Zealand gather with their extended families and enjoy the summer holidays together. Common activities include camping, beach trips (with a feed), family dinners and for the majority of New Zealand’s LDS community (and a lot of non LDS too), the Temple Christmas lights. Often presents are opened on Christmas morning (most times still in your pyjamas) and after a fun filled day with family most of us end Christmas with a family dinner (usually a roast meal) followed by a stroll or drive around the neighbourhood viewing all the Christmas Lights people have put up on their houses. Also, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is New Zealand’s biggest ‘Sale Day’ so the malls are packed.
What are some traditions in your own family?
We have plenty of Christmas traditions in our family:
At the Hamilton, New Zealand Temple there are wonderful Christmas lights every year, they are on every night for the month of December. Not only are the lights and scenery beautiful but there are many activities adding to the Christmas atmosphere. Choirs perform every night before the lights are turned on and videos or a live nativity are going for the remainder of the night. Nativity scenes and the story of Jesus’ birth are up around the temple grounds too. Visiting the temple lights as a family during the Christmas holidays is one of our favourite Christmas traditions.
In our family we have always done 2 kinds of Secret Santa, the first being when we put all our names in a hat and randomly draw out the name of the person that we are assigned to buy a Christmas present for (Coming from a family with 9 children and now spouses and grandchildren too, it is a good way to ensure everyone gets a gift without having to buy EVERYONE gifts). The second being where we choose a family in need and make a special gift basket with gifts for the whole family. (Some years we were better off and would be able to buy expensive gifts for each family member with biscuits, ham and other food for the family to share, other years we would be struggling too and would mostly give of things we already had but we always gave SOMETHING) We would then drop the package on their doorstep and knock before quickly running away (usually giggling with excitement).
Boxing Day Olympics
On the day after Christmas, while everyone is hustling and bustling around the malls my Dad hosts a games day called the ‘Boxing Day Olympics’. We go to the beach or a park and get into teams and do fun competitions/activities like races, quizzes, obstacle courses and so much more. Such a good time had by all the family. Can’t forget the food too 😛
What foods/meals are a part of the holiday season?
Common foods eaten in New Zealand over the Christmas period include Fish & Chips (a beach or park favourite), barbecue food, Roast dinners of all kinds (my husband Mark had Ham every year as a kid yet I was brought up with chickens, lamb and pork), Sandwiches made from the smoked/roasted Ham, lots of chocolate 😉 and if you’re lucky you might get Hangi, A traditional Maori meal cooked underground by digging a hole and heating irons that are then buried with the meats, potatoes, stuffing, cabbage, pumpkin, kumara (Maori for red sweet potato) and sometimes steamed pudding and then dug up hours later once it’s cooked. (Don’t worry, we put the food in metal baskets and cover with sheets so we’re not chucking dirt straight onto our food). Usually this all washed down by either Sparkling Grape Juice or some L&P (A DELICIOUS lemony fizzy drink).
What songs/music do Kiwis listen to?
We do have the commonly sung Christmas Classic ’12 Days of Christmas’ with our own kiwi twist singing “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree” as opposed to the classic “A Partridge in a Pear Tree”.
Apart from that we mostly listen to the usual like ‘All I Want For Christmas’, ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Winter Wonderland’ (Which is really funny considering it’s Summer here) and all the Hymns too. Mostly done by American artists but sometimes covered by some of our local New Zealand artists.
What symbol represents Christmas best in New Zealand?
Funnily enough we find snowflakes as one of our Christmas symbols along with bells, candy canes, Santa, fairy lights, bows, tinsel, wreaths etc. with stars and angels to top our Christmas trees. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t permit us making snowmen but we do make a mean sandman. One special thing about New Zealand is that we have an evergreen tree, the Pohutukawa, with bright red flowers this tree blossoms in the Summer as a sure sign that Christmas is near.