Family reunions, BBQs, secret Santa and flowering pohutukawa – that’s a traditional Kiwi Christmas for many of us. It’s hard to imagine there might be a different way to spend it. These Tauranga locals, coming from all over the globe, share a whole new approach to our favourite holiday.
DEE COLLINS (ZIMBABWE)
Whilst living in Zimbabwe, Christmas was always a special time of year. In the lead up to the annual shut down there would be cocktail parties, luncheons and events to attend; everyone would be frantically busy at work, right up to Christmas Eve, then everything would close and we would all head off to our families to celebrate the holiday.
Although it was summer in Zimbabwe and usually very hot, we would always celebrate with a traditional cooked English Christmas meal in the evening – roast turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, vegies, Christmas pudding, etc. The table always had Christmas decorations and crackers.
There were quite a few traditions back in Zimbabwe that we don’t have here. For example, we were paid monthly. At the end of the year we were given a 13th cheque – a bonus for a successful year. It was also a time when gratuities were given out – everyone from the postman to the dustbin collectors would eagerly anticipate their ‘Christmas box’ (money) from all the householders.
I love the iconic Kiwi Christmas tree – the flowering pohutukawa – and definitely the buzz as tourists start to arrive in the Bay of Plenty. Most of all, I love being able to celebrate Christmas with my family, who now live in Christchurch.
HAYAT BERKAOUI (THE NETHERLANDS)
Christmas in the Netherlands revolves around family and food. We celebrate Christmas Day, which we call the first day of Christmas, with one side of the family, and the second day of Christmas (Boxing day is a foreign concept to us) with the other side of the family. As I was raised by my mum we usually spent first Christmas day with our family and grandparents and the second day of Christmas just with our small family.
Usually we don’t give each other presents at Christmas as we have another celebration on December 5th where presents are involved. I think over the last few years though, it has become more popular to have an ‘American Christmas’ with loads of presents under the Christmas tree.
I love a summer Christmas here in New Zealand – it feels so laid-back and everyone enjoys the good weather, however it never feels like ‘Christmas’ to me as I associate Christmas with very cold weather, possibly snow, and drinking hot chocolate.
KATIA GRODECKI (BELARUS AND CANADA)
I am originally from Belarus, but spent most of my life in Canada where Christmas is a very important holiday. Given my, and my husband’s, Eastern European heritage (he was born in Poland), our Christmas celebrations have always been a fusion of European and Canadian traditions.
We would have a large Christmas Eve dinner with the family, where we enjoyed Borscht (beetroot soup) with mushroom dumplings, as well as several fish-based dishes. On Christmas Day we typically ate turkey with delicious vegetable side dishes, after spending some time playing in the snow and watching Christmas movies while snuggled under a blanket. Spiced wine and shortbread cookies were a ‘must’ for dessert.
We also used to make hot chocolate in a thermos, wrap warm blankets around ourselves, and drive around the neighbourhood in the evening, looking for the most beautifully decorated house. Christmas lights bring out the kid in me!
This will be our second Christmas in New Zealand and I confess I still find it challenging to truly get into the Christmas spirit at summertime and neither do I crave the traditional turkey dinner when it’s 30° outside. However, Christmas in New Zealand has its own special charm and I love the tradition of having a barbecue with loved ones in-between trips to the beach. I am embracing our newly adopted tradition of Christmas Eve dinner on the patio.
COKA KLUG (CHILE)
Christmas is huge in Chile! As the majority of the country is Catholic, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday and spend time with family. Turkey and apple purée are always present on the festive table.
The best memory I have about this day is how my dad once pretended he saw Santa outside. We ran out to meet him and, of course, couldn’t find anyone. But when we came back to the lounge, our Christmas tree was surrounded with loads of presents! We went to sleep with hearts full of love. The next day, after waking, my dad and mum opened the window and said: ‘Coka, look what’s in the backyard!’ And there it was – a massive tree-house, almost as big as our real house! Or at least it looked like that to me. It was a dream come true!
One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to reproduce the Nativity scene. Most often it would be a little set of ceramics with wooden figures, representing Mary, Jesus, Joseph and a few animals. Our kids would also dress up and perform a play in church for everyone to watch.
Christmas in New Zealand is all about nature and a day out at the beach. Although, to be honest, I always feel a little homesick, it certainly is a time you want to spend with your family. At least I can now share it with my daughter! When she was little we had massive celebrations at home with other foreign friends, a yum dinner and incorporated our traditions. I want her to feel the same love I used to feel back at home.