Celebrity News

Our favourite Kiwi celebs share their treasured Christmas memories

Suzy Cato, the Topp twins, Stacey Morrison, Guy Williams, Miriama Kamo, Hayley Holt and more New Zealand stars are excitedly getting into the Christmas spirit.

With the help of some New Zealand icons, our favourite celebrities count down to the big day.

Suzy Cato

Even lovable Suzy couldn’t charm this notoriously cheeky bird into posing with our plant. Luckily, we tracked down its obliging relative!

Suzy’s favourite Christmas memory is driving down from Kaikohe with her parents to spend time with her grandparents in Hamilton.

“It was a sign the holidays had really begun,” says the Dancing with the Stars darling, 50, who released her record The Totally Awesome Kiwi Kids Album last week.

Last Christmas Day, Suzy and her family stayed home in Auckland, meeting up with some friends for a picnic at their local beach. “It was all about swimming, Frisbee and eating anything that didn’t melt,” she smiles, adding that she hopes to do it all again this year.

The Topp twins

Lynda (left) and Jools dig the big celebration, but they won’t be hoeing in to a hot meal, opting for a ham and salad lunch with their folks.

Keen carollers Dames Jools and Lynda Topp can’t help bursting into song as they pretend to dig up kumara for our festive shoot, but soon the twins are reminiscing about the time they had a job doing the real thing as teenagers.

Jools recalls, “There was an old guy out at Bethells Beach who used to grow the most beautiful kumara in the sand, with a bit of chicken poo on top. They were completely round, like potatoes but red, and so easy to dig out. And they’d get major money at the markets because they were the best.”

“You can’t beat a good roasted kumara with butter, salt and pepper all over it,” adds Lynda, although the 60-year-old twins – authors of new cookbook Topp Country: A Culinary Journey – will be sticking to cold ham and salad on December 25.

Lynda explains, “Dad’s 90 and Mum’s 88, so every Christmas we get with them is a bonus and we don’t want anyone stressing over food. Anyway, we like to eat light because then we can eat for a longer period of time!”

Jools tells, “That’s what happens! New Zealanders eat from morning right through to midnight. You’ve got to pace yourself on the day.”

Miriama Kamo

We’re sure Miriama’s gorgeous daughter Te Rerehua has some good ideas about how Santa could fill the flax kete. Fingers crossed for Christmas morning!

Miriama Kamo has fond memories of singing classic carols while growing up “in a bit of a commune” in Christchurch.

She recalls, “It was called the Christian Family Movement, and we lived in a group of four families that used to build each other’s houses and put on performances. We’d sing ‘Pukeko in a Ponga Tree’ and really put all our energy into that last line – I loved that pukeko.”

The Sunday and Marae presenter, 45, lives surrounded by harakeke (flax) on Waiheke Island, but she confesses she’s not much of a weaver – she leaves that to her sister, who she’ll see when the family holds a big reunion at their Christchurch marae, Rapaki, on Boxing Day.

“I can’t wait!” she enthuses. “Christmas is all about family and I just love seeing all five of us siblings in one place, with our children, Mum, Dad, aunties and uncles – all of us just eating together.”

Miriama and her daughter Te Rerehua, seven, will celebrate December 25 with a Middle Eastern feast in Wellington with her husband Mike Dreaver’s whanau, although their little girl is more excited about the prospect of a gingerbread house.

Her favourite thing about Christmas? “Presents!” giggles Te Rerehua, who is hoping for some “magical pets” and “talking birds” from Santa.

Ngahuia Piripi

The Shorty star is already having a ball taking her daughter to the mall to see the decorations.

The Shortland Street actress, 28, and her daughter Owairea, nine, have a tradition where they each buy a new decoration for their Christmas tree every year. “But they have to be red and gold – we’ve got a colour theme!” tells Ngahuia.

The star’s favourite festive memory was the year she got not one, but two scrunchie-making machines. “That was the best present ever because I could make twice as many scrunchies,” she laughs. “But after

you have kids, no-one cares about buying you presents – it’s about making it magical for them. I love to build up the hype with songs and going to the mall to see Santa.”

Just don’t send Ngahuia a festive greeting on December 26. She grins, “My birthday is on Boxing Day, so while I love Christmas, the next day, it’s all over. I won’t respond to any late Christmas texts.”

Guy Williams

Guy Williams thought he’d be afraid of the seven slippery, snake-like fish on our shoot, but after getting to grips with a couple of eels, the comedian says, “They’re quite majestic creatures. They’re beautiful New Zealand natives and I’m glad we’re going to release them – I won’t be eating one any time soon.”

The 31-year-old’s favourite Christmas memory was when he was five. He tells, “I was given an Optimus Prime toy while we were staying at a campervan park near Nelson, so I spent the day on the beach in Kaiteriteri with my favourite toy ever.

“But probably my best yarn was the time I had a double Christmas. I spent the day with my family in New Zealand, then jumped on a plane to Los Angeles

at night and arrived just in time for their Christmas. I’m a big basketball fan, so I went to a Christmas Day game at the Staples Centre. It was an amazing life hack.”

Asked what a Kiwi festive season means to him, Guy jokes, “Family arguments are a big part of it. It’s a time to drink a little too much alcohol and really nut out all your problems around the tree.”

Kasey and Karena Bird

Kasey (left) and Karena will be using up a whole lot of puha for their Christmas feast because their dad wants eight small meals over the course of the day!

Kasey and Karena Bird, the sisters from Maketu who won MasterChef New Zealand in 2014, have a distinct Christmas tradition. “We’ve been doing the same thing our entire lives,” Kasey, 28, says. “Our sister Michaela does our make-up every year and we get really dressed up, even though we’re just going up the road to our family homestead. On the way, we wind down the windows of the car and blast Christmas music, and we yell ‘Merry Christmas!’ at every single person we see on the street.”

One thing that does change every year, however, is the menu. Karena tells, “We’re going to have a seafood extravaganza this Christmas. Dad wants eight small meals throughout the day, so we’ll be preparing fresh sashimi, oysters, scallops in the shell, crayfish, mussels … Fresh and delicious kaimoana!”

Hayley Holt

Hayley’s in her happy place – at the beach and with her hands full of pipi. Just don’t try to get her to eat the little delicacies!

The beloved Breakfast presenter, 38, recalls, “Our family used to go camping up north, at Oakura Bay, and the whole campground would get in boats and sail over to this beach for a big pipi hunt. It was a great tradition. I didn’t love the taste, but I loved searching for them.”

Hayley adds, “When I was young, Christmas was so big and colourful. It felt like I had a mountain of presents under the tree. My best one ever was a little pink BMX, which I thought was pretty cool.”

For the former professional snowboarder, Dancing with the Stars dancer and Green Party candidate, a Kiwi Christmas means “beach, sunburn, road trips and camping”.

She tells, “This year, I’m going up to Warkworth with my family. In my imagination, I might try to cook a sophisticated dish for the pot-luck lunch, but I probably won’t!”

Josh Emett

Take some good advice from Josh and do absolutely nothing but have fun these festive holidays. Yes, chef!

Josh Emett’s favourite Christmases were spent on the Waikato farm he grew up on. Josh – whose new cookbook The Recipe comes out next year – tells, “We had a swimming pool, so a lot of people would migrate to our place for very big family affairs. The uncles would come over with their pushbikes and motorbikes. One year, they parachuted into our paddock!”

This year, he’ll spend December 25 at a friend’s place in Wanaka. Josh grins, “I’ll contribute in terms of cooking – probably fish on the barbecue – but Christmas is the one day of the year where I commit myself to achieving absolutely nothing, other than relaxing or having fun.”

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