Christmas traditons in New Zealand
The New Zealand Christmas tree is called Pohutokawa and it’s flowers are a brillinat scarlet all during the Christmas season.
Because Christmas occurs in summer here, New Zealanders do not have a tradition of snow and ice, but Santa still visits dresed in his red and white robes.
Each small town and many of the suburbs of the cities have Santa Parades, where all the community groups proudly displays brightly decorated floats, on some theme, from which are flung lollies and sweets to waiting children.
It is not alway hot enough to have Christmas dinner on the beach (February is our hottest month) but because there are so many people in New Zealand who follow the old English traditions, many folk still have turkey and plum pudding, but often served with salads.
Sometimes the traditional feed is cooked on the barbecue outside and may include a whole variety of typical Kiwi treats, such as lamb chops, as well as the Christmas fare.
No one would think Christmas complete without a big, fluffly light Pavlova which is a wonderfully soft confection made of whipped egg whites and sugar, cooked in a slow, low oven and then decorated with fruit, often Kiwifruit, and cream.
Because so many people from the Northern hemisphere now live in New Zealand, it has become the tradition to have two Christmases, one on 25th December and the other in July, which is mid-winter. Many hotels, restaurants and homes put on the full Christmas celebration, complete with tree, gifts and of course all the foods which were just too heavy to serve in summer.
In the town where I live, Santa visits all the children on Christmas morning riding on a fire engine. He throws sweeties to everyone and no one is ever left out. The kids can hear him coming because the siren warns them to come out of their houses and stand by the road. I love this tradition but I often wonder what would happen if they suddenly got an emergency call! Santa would look very strange fighting a fire!
Maori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa-New Zealand, traditionally celebrated the month Hakihea (which begins around 15th December) as one of ease, before the Christian missionaries came and changed things! The hard work of planting, thinning out and digging irrigation ditches was finished, seafoods were plentiful and life was good.
Maori had a very advanced lifestyle, with a strong tradition of education, domestic and spiritual obligations, often tied to the guardians of land, sea and stars. Although there were no specific traditions in Maori culture to compare with Christmas, everyone believed that the bringer of good gifts at this time was Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, who was as revered as St. Nicholas.
At Christmastime nowadays, many people will put down a traditional Maori hangi. This is essentially a big hole in the ground which is heated with hot rocks and then loaded up with baskets of food, covered and allowed to cook underground. When the food comes out, everyone stands with mouths watering waiting for the tenderest pork, chicken, kumara, pumpkin, potatoes and stuffing. There is nothing to compare with the total bliss of taste of food from a hangi, delicately smokey and melt-in-the-mouth soft.
Usually the hangi is served around 5pm and after everyone has had a big feed, we will sit around singing carols as it gets dark.
Of course there are many cultures in New Zealand so some of us can also joyfully celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, which also occur around December time.
Christmas in Aotearoa-New Zealand is wonderful!