My mum’s just put up the Christmas tree! Here I am, staring at the shaggy, green pyramid, bare for save for the angel at the top – the same angel that superciliously surveyed our lounge when I was a kid back in England.
Decorating the tree will be extra-special for me this year. I’m about to leave my parents’ home; not just for university. I won’t be back for summer holidays. I won’t have summer holidays anymore. My boyfriend and I are about to move into our own place. Start our real lives.
This will be our third Christmas together, but our first Christmas together. Until now, we’ve each spent Christmas with our own families. Now we have to balance our time between them both. It’s just lucky that Tim’s family are German immigrants to New Zealand. Germans open their presents on Christmas Eve, so we can have a German Christmas on Christmas Eve with Tim’s family and an English Christmas on Christmas Day with my family.
Still no Kiwi Christmas.
I’ve been in New Zealand thirteen years and never had a Kiwi Christmas. As English immigrants, my family stubbornly sticks to our English Christmas, even though it’s thirty degrees in the sun-drenched garden and none of us can stomach a huge, hot turkey dinner.
Tim’s family’s the same. Their first Christmas in New Zealand, before Tim was born, his mum insisted on closing all the curtains and lighting a load of candles – bear in mind that they lived in a bus at the time. The heat was suffocating, but it just wasn’t Christmas without darkness and candles.
Despite the weather, the New Zealand Christmas still strongly resembles the European/North American Christmas. I’ve often thought it must be weird for Kiwi children growing up hearing ‘Let It Snow’ at Christmas, and seeing fake snow in all the shop window displays, when in many parts of New Zealand it never snows in winter, let alone at Christmas. I wrote about the paradox of New Zealand Christmas last year, so I won’t dwell on it now. I’m just waiting for mum to put the old Christmas CD on.
I know she will. It’s tradition. We always listen to it while decorating the tree. Apart from the one year we lost it. But we found it again the next year. It’s just not Christmas without Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’, Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.
Oh my god – I won’t be decorating the tree next year! I might have my own tree to decorate. I’ll have to rip that CD!
I wonder if I’ll ever have a Kiwi Christmas. What would you do? Spend Christmas in a campervan at the beach, having a barbecue and drinking cold beer?
The first year we were in New Zealand, my nana actually sent us a load of Christmas wrapping paper from England, thinking we wouldn’t be able to buy any here! She soon learned that the spirit of Christmas consumerism is just as alive in New Zealand as anywhere else. Take a walk down Auckland’s Queen Street right now and you’ll be simultaneously enchanted by the Smith & Caughey’s Christmas window and creeped out by the colossal Santa Claus looming above the big Whitcoulls.
(The Whitcoulls Santa used to be even creepier with his beckoning finger and winking eye. There was never anything explicitly wrong with it, but it somehow made everyone who saw it a little uncomfortable.)
Because of this consumerism, Christmas in New Zealand isn’t really that different from anywhere else. It’s just the weather. The bright, warm sunshine still sends me crazy at Christmas… although there is something appealing about the way it illuminates the deep red blooms of the pohutukawa trees.
Will I ever have a true Kiwi Christmas? Maybe. One day. I’m all grownup now. I’m moving out; moving on. Maybe in a few years I’ll have my own Christmas traditions.
But right now I’m going to close my laptop and help my little sister decorate the tree.