New Zealand is a very diverse society and whilst Christmas is a special time, with families coming together to enjoy the New Zealand summer, it is not celebrated in the same way as it is in Europe. The holidays are usually on the beach since it is likely to be a scorching hot day. Yet, at the same time, New Zealanders sing White Christmas, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman and other songs that have no similarity to the country’s climate
New Zealand’s Christmas traditions
Some of the traditions are similar to those in the Northern hemisphere, but with a New Zealand twist. For example, children in New Zealand leave out carrots for Santa’s reindeer, but Santa gets a cold beer and some pineapple chunks.
New Zealand carol services are popular and take place across the country. Carols are similar to those sung in the Northern hemisphere, but some are unique to New Zealand, including ‘Te Haranui’ and A Kiwiana Christmas! There are several Maori versions of “Silent Night” and a revision of “O little town of Bethlehem” to suit New Zealand.
Christmas shopping in NZ
When Christmas shopping, you are more likely to see boardshorts and sundresses than winter coats and woollen mittens. Barbecues and outdoor games are among the most popular gifts and can be used immediately in the long summer holidays. The Christmas market is another northern hemisphere tradition that has made it to New Zealand, to include twilight fetes and rural gift barns.
If you want gifts more suited to the winter climate, these are found online. Online shopping, such as you find here is also great for those who are travelling so that you can send your gift directly to your recipient, gift-wrapped for the occasion. You can visit stores to get some inspiration, and if in Auckland, make sure you see the famous annual puppetry window display at Smith and Caughey store on Queen Street.
Santa Parade in NZ
Most larger towns and cities in New Zealand have a Christmas parade with decorated floats and marching bands. Across the country, these take place from mid-November onwards. Whilst these are commercial events, they are popular events for all ages. Santa appears, often wearing ‘jandals’ (New Zealand sandals) and sometimes swaps his red top for a New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ rugby shirt. The largest and most famous parade is in Auckland, now in its 86th year, the parade attracts thousands of spectators. After the parade, there is usually stage entertainment with food and vendors throughout the rest of the day and evening.
Light shows of New Zealand
Across the country’s main cities, you can witness some amazing Christmas light shows and displays. Some city streets have a competition to see which house has the best lights, whilst larger events include a Christmas Fayre and live music and a Santa’s grotto. Each summer, from mid-December to the beginning of February, Pukekura Park is transformed into a magical, illuminated night-time wonderland, known as the Festival of Light, that attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year.
Christmas meals in New Zealand
Due to the heat, there are not many who adhere to a Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. Barbeques and the drinking of ice-cold beer are the order of the day for most, and in the evening the constant buzzing of cicadas is heard as you sit by Pohutukawa trees in full bloom to enjoy the cooler temperatures after dusk.
At Christmas, some people even have a traditional Maori hangi, where meat and vegetables are cooked on hot stones underground. After the hangi is eaten, people often sit around and sing Christmas carols.