North Taranaki Midweek
Surviving Christmasless winters
OPINION: When I moved to Aotearoa, I had to get used to a few things. Most of them, I’d been told about already (addiction to feijoas - tick).
In particular, I’d heard many tales of summer Christmases, ones where barbecues replace roasts and wearing togs all day is normal attire. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the sad reality of a winter . . . without Christmas.
You see, in Europe Christmas is more than an occasion to see family and exchange presents: it’s what keeps you going through the long, cold months.
Fairy lights and markets provide you with hope as you prepare for shorter days and an increased reliance on carbs.
And while I may make it sound like Christmas is merely a survival kit to me, it’s also linked to genuine joy and nostalgia.
If you ask me, Christmas has nothing to do with baby Jesus - it was added simply to make winter as good as summer for people living in the Northern Hemisphere.
With that context in mind, you can imagine how I felt about a winter sans Christmas in Aotearoa. I turned to Neighbourly for answers (cue to bewildered blubbering): ‘how… what… how does it work?’. The community mainly had one thing to say: go skiing. Ah, well - that’s fair enough for those who have the skill and live close to ski fields. But what about those of us who a) aren’t pros at skiing or b) don’t live in a mountainous area - how do we survive?
My despair was only increased when I realised that my July birthday (historically known for late summer evenings and beers on the beach) was now bang in the middle of the colder months. Me, a winter child? Never! As I enter my second winter in Aotearoa, I have strategised a few ways to make Christmasless winter exciting.
First, I find something else to celebrate. Believe it or not, there are plenty of incredible occasions to toast in the colder months. In fact, Matariki, this
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year finally a public holiday, was a great opportunity to look up at the stars, gather with close ones and dip my toes into Kiwi culture.
Second, I indulge in all those comfy, Christmassy rituals anyways. I might not walk into a shop and hear Michael Buble singing about snowflakes (really not OK in summer, by the way), but I can put fairy lights up, make a big deal out of buying fluffy socks and drink hot chocolate by the litre. And if you have a winter birthday, like little old me, have a banquet! Friends + a hearty meal = joy.
At the end of the day, I have realised the magic of Christmas is mainly about being with loved ones - and thankfully that’s something we can always put into the calendar ourselves.