It’s not the same snow – nor the same wooded pines – I’m used to this time of year.
While the iconic crimson petals of the Pohutukawa feature on holiday cards, we’re too far south (too far everything) for even the traditional Kiwi Christmas trees to blossom down here.
In the South Island, I console myself with another summer of surfing Santas and that pinch of white dandruff clinging to the mountains. This is Christmas in New Zealand.
When it comes to carrying Christmas traditions abroad, we are often the only difference between a heartwarming holiday and the worst event ever. Attitude, I’ve noticed, typically has more influence than latitude.
What if we treated special calendar dates in foreign places like we treat our favorite recipe? Assuming we know how to make it best, but realizing there might be other tasty versions we haven’t yet tried. . .
Dish: A Kiwi Christmas
- Serving Size: roughly 4 million people, with some leftovers
- Preparation Time: variable
- Celebration Time: 2 weeks *Alternative (modern and “commercialized”) recipes may call for festivities to begin 3-4 weeks early.*
– 1 pair of jandals (flip flops)
– 1 non-native deciduous tree
– 1 bbq
– 500 ml of sunscreen
– to taste: new potatoes, summer fruits, fresh vegetables
– 1-5 buckets of Cookie Time biscuits (Be sure to pre-order these made-in-New-Zealand cookies in advance, as buckets are only sold prior to Christmas).
- Pack winter footwear in a closet and place jandals on feet. Do not complain about seasonal weather, warm temperatures, nor anything else pertaining to Christmas in summer.
- Find a tree. Best results are achieved by chopping down a Wilding Pine or a Douglas Fir (both considered invasive weeds).
- Decorate. Unique ornaments include wreaths made of dried grape vines, Christmas crackers and candy canes on tree boughs, and pillow cases doubling as stockings.
- Purchase Kiwi-themed cards (Santa + surfboard/ beach towel/ Kiwi bird) to mail to friends and relatives abroad.
- Carefully dole out your enthusiasm over end-of-term work parties and a paltry lineup of Christmas movies on public television. Ignore the oxymoron of winter wonderland displays in store windows. *Again, do not remind people of what the season feels like at home. This will only be interpreted as indulgent Yankee exuberance.*
Cooking Directions: Christmas Eve – Christmas Day
- Dec. 24th, set out a chilled beer and a few carrots for the eve’s Arctic guests. *Santa prefers a New Zealand Pale Ale.*
- Christmas morning, invite friends and family round for a festive BBQ. Open with mimosas.
- Dig up new potatoes, the first batch of the summer. (The expert celebrant may accomplish this with mimosa in hand).
- Sample regional delicacies, such as whitebait patties, stone fruit salads, and fresh vegetables from the garden.
- While digesting brunch, participate in an afternoon activity. This must be outdoors and should include at least one of the following: sand/ chilly bin (cooler) of beer/ the beach/ a Frisbee/ a dog.
- Snack on biscuits (cookies) and Nestle scorched almonds, cheese platters, and potato chips paired with classic Kiwi dip. *Next recipe.*
- Re-gather around the dinner table for ham or a more traditional meal. Finish with the ultimate Kiwi desert, pavlova.
- Pat stomachs, open gifts, share laughter. As you wind down with a cup of tea, remember that differences add flavor to the oldest of favorites.
Where will you celebrate this Christmas, and what new traditions will you take part in?