Time for Another Very Kiwi XMAS - An International Students Guide of 5 Things to Expect

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Meri Kirihimete! (Merry Christmas!) Following on from last year’s blog on Eight Ways International Students Can Have a Very Kiwi Christmas, we have provided another five things to expect at Christmas in New Zealand this December 25th.

1. Holidays
As Christmas rolls around New Zealander’s make use of their annual leave as well as public holiday time and head to the beach, bach or campground. Christmas time is also the best time to catch-up with family and friends. In the summer Kiwis can look forward to multiple days off work, relaxing in the sunshine, big family meals and lots of visits to friends’ houses/holiday homes. The best part? You can spend most of your time together rotating between sun and shade, outdoors in the fresh NZ air, no chance of snow!

2. Food
Breakfast – The usual breakfast after you wake-up on Christmas morning is the summer fruit and the chocolate that comes with your present or is left over from Christmas Eve lunch. If you are after something more savoury, baked beans, bacon and eggs or bread rolls are the way to go. Our tip? Make a smoothie with some of that delicious summer fruit and start Christmas day in a healthy way.
Lunch – Christmas ham and salad are the go-to for most Kiwi families. If you are vegan then swap the meat for a larger serving of roasted vegetables (pumpkin, beans and kumara are all in season and delicious) and sparkling grape juice.
BBQ – Kiwis love spending the day in the summer sun cooking the Christmas lunch on the BBQ. Sausages, steaks and other meats go well, unless you are vegetarian or vegan, in which case vegan patties and roast veggies will be your barbeque meal of choice.
Dinner – You’ll probably be too full of Christmas lunch for this, but leftovers are delicious. You can always just go straight to dessert if you would prefer!
Baking – Gingerbread Christmas trees and snowmen are some ideas of Christmas themed baking you could whip up for family/friends over the Christmas period. Cookies/biscuits, scones and bread are all well-received at Christmas time as well.
Fruit and Dessert – Strawberries, kiwifruit, blueberries and cherries are all deliciously in season. For dessert, pavlova is a Christmas staple.

3. Songs
Kiwis like the classics – "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid, "Last Christmas" by Wham!, "Fairytale Of New York" by The Pogues (and Kirsty MacColl), "Snoopy's Christmas" by The Royal Guardsmen and "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey are all highly played over the Christmas period. Especially in supermarkets and department stores. Despite not having a white Christmas, with NZ’s holiday falling in summer, Kiwis are also fans of other traditional popular songs include; “White Christmas”, “It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”, “Mary’s Boy Child”, “Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer” and “Let it Snow” (choose your favourite version). Kiwi versions of traditional Christmas classics that are popular include: Kingi Ihaka’s 1981 reworking of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” into “A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree”, The Maori Batallion version of “Silent Night” (Märie Te Po) and John Clarke/Fred Dagg who adapted “We Three Kings of Orient Are” into “One on a tractor, two in a car”. Kiwi specific Christmas songs, which are not as well-known internationally include; “Te Harinui” by Willow Macky, “Sticky Beak the Kiwi” by Bob Edwards and Neil Roberts and “It’s Christmas in New Zealand” by Rosy Parsons.

4. Christmas Traditions

Santa – Kiwi Santa sometimes wears a red suit and boots but other times he decides to put on a swimsuit instead. When its warm outside, Father Christmas must dress accordingly, right?
Presents – Presents are left under the tree or in stockings hanging by the fireplace, to be opened on Christmas day. For younger children, Santa delivers presents overnight, so handmade sacks or pillowcases are left overnight to be filled by morning. Kids are also encouraged to leave milk or cookies out for Santa and his reindeer. At school or in work groups, ‘Secret Santa’ gift-giving is arranged so that each person buys a gift at random for another member of the group and in turn they receive a present not knowing who bought the gift for them. Charities such as Wellington Shoebox Christmas, Foster Hope and Christmas Box all provide essential gifts (i.e. food) to kids that otherwise might go without, using donations.
Trees – The classic Christmas tree is the pine. It comes in real/ fake form here in New Zealand and is recognised the world over as the undisputed king of Christmas trees. NZ has a great alternative however. Our native Pohutakawa flowers red and merry in the summertime and is a great Christmas tree alternative for those allergic or adverse to pine.
Events - Santa/Christmas parades are events that run across the country in November/December every year. There a mixture of local and national events for people to attend. These parades usually consist of floats with Christmas-themed decorations and people on board.
Other Christmas events are; santa’s workshop/grotto visits across the country, a visit to your local mall to see Santa (best done with younger siblings who can tell Santa what they want for Christmas) and Christmas light shows (if you live in Wellington there is a map of all the houses who have decorated their houses with lights).

5. History

Christmas became a public holiday in NZ for everyone after the introduction of the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1984, which gave NZ workers Christmas Day and Boxing Day off. These holiday entitlements were confirmed by the Public Holidays Act 1910. Under the holidays Act 2003, most people who work on Christmas Day are entitled to time-and-a-half pay/an alternative day off.
Christmas began to be celebrated in NZ after the country was settled by English Christian missionaries in the 19th century. Samuel Marsden’s Christmas Day service at Hohi (Oihi) Bay in the Bay of Islands in 1814 is seen by many Kiwis as the country’s first celebration of the holiday.

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