21 December 2021 | Written by Bachcare Holiday Homes

Christmas in New Zealand

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How kiwis celebrate Christmas in New Zealand

The traditions that we all enjoy at Christmas time are different throughout the world. Kiwis celebrate the holiday in ways rooted within their culture and the history of their country. 

Due to the warm weather that New Zealand enjoys at Christmas time (it’s our summer in December!), we don’t have the activities that the rest of the world enjoy, like sledding and skiing. But what we do have is the ability to visit the beach and go swimming. Not a bad trade-off!

How else is Christmas celebrated in New Zealand? Read along to find out!


A Santa Parade

christmas in new zealand - santa parade
A Santa Parade in Dunedin. Credit: Wikicommons

Holiday parades are pretty standard, but the meaning behind the Santa parades is slightly different from what we are used to. What started as a joke with Santa arriving in outlandish styles has led to an entire parade in his honor as he makes his way from the North Pole to New Zealand.

In past years, Santa Claus has entered the country by elephant, parachute, and airplane. Different department stores throughout the country would go to great lengths to outshine the others with their Santa’s entrance. 

As more and more stores came on board, elves became included. Now, an entire parade is held to mark Santa’s arrival ahead of the Christmas season.


Celebrations on the Beach

christmas day on the beach in new zealand
One of New Zealand’s many beautiful beaches. Credit: Pixabay

For children and families in New Zealand, Christmas Day brings many of the same traditions we enjoy, but with a bit of a Kiwi flair. Upon awakening, there will be a stocking full of treats and toys to open. After that, most families will enjoy a big breakfast together. 

Before Christmas day, it is common for New Zealand residents to enjoy traditional Christmas carols. However, we have our own carols that reflect our unique style of celebration. Some of the most popular include Christmas in New Zealand, Sticky Beak the Kiwi, Te Haranui, and A Kiwiana Christmas.

Many New Zealanders also take the time to attend church during the holiday period. The country has a predominantly Christian population that focuses on the holiday as recognition of the birth of Jesus. For some, this is a family affair with everyone going to a service or mass together. For others, one may go alone or with just their immediate family.

It’s after that where things become a bit different. Whereas many throughout the world take to sledding or snuggling up by a warm fireplace with hot cocoa, those in New Zealand take to the beaches.

Christmas Day is one of the most popular beach-going days for those in the country. With their summer season in full swing, the conditions are perfect for relaxing and spending time together with extended family on the beautiful golden beaches that New Zealand is known for globally. 

When it comes time for the holiday meal, many Kiwi families choose to remain at the beach together and eat. While there, they will cook seafood or barbecue up some fresh kiwi meat.

Later, the families may enjoy a traditional Christmas cake or pudding for dessert at home. 


Holiday Accessories

Pohutukawa Tree Christmas
A Pohutukawa Tree. Credit: Pixabay

The Christmas trees that New Zealand is known for aren’t the same evergreens that others enjoy. Instead, many families will put up in the house or decorate outside a Pohutukawa tree, a tree native to New Zealand.

The Pohutukawa tree is vibrantly colored, with puffs of red flowers. It is known as the Christmas tree because the red flowers only sprout during that holiday season. The tree also has Maori tribe roots that speak to the journey the spirits of the dead conduct. 

In addition to the tree, many in New Zealand are excited to break out Christmas Crackers. These party favors come wrapped in shiny paper. Once cracked in half, they make a noise and expose a small gift or message. 


The Queen’s Speech

Countries within the Commonwealth, which includes New Zealand, get a special Christmas Day message from the Queen of England. While some will stop what they are doing to sit and watch the program on television, others will listen in from the beach or other celebration. Additionally, many public places will display the speech on televisions for people to watch.

In her yearly speech, the Queen will speak to citizens of the Commonwealth with a message tailored to the past year and hopes for going forward. When the Queen started the tradition, this message was relayed over radios. Now there are many different avenues to gain access to her message each Christmas. 

The Queen’s Speech is something that many Kiwis enjoy and look forward to every year. Many find the message inspirational and that it sets the tone as the world advances into the new year.


Final Thoughts

From the list above, you can see that although there are a few similarities between a Kiwi Christmas celebration and the celebrations from other parts of the world, there are also some vast differences. 

What makes all traditions unique is the reason they have come into existence. For those in New Zealand, their celebrations reflect their environment and the history of their country.

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