5 great Kiwi Christmases

We might not have snow or reindeer, but there’s nothing wrong with a good old Kiwi Christmas. Here are some suggestions for having a cool Yule in your very own backyard (or thereabouts).

1. Historical Christmas

The first Christmas was allegedly celebrated on our shores, or near them, in 1642, aboard Abel Tasman’s ship, which was sheltering at the time from crap weather near Wellington in the Marlborough Sounds. The sailors ate pork (from steerage) and drank extra wine. In 1769, it was Captain Cook’s crew who weighed anchor at Three Kings Island, just north of Cape Reinga, on December 25 and cooked themselves a goose pie. Actually, there were no geese so they made a gannet pie instead. You can’t eat those any more, but you can see them this time of year at Muriwai Beach, Cape Kidnappers and indeed on Three Kings Island.

2. Botanical Christmas

The New Zealand Christmas tree, the pohutukawa, holds a special place in every Kiwi’s heart. You can have your snow and 3pm dusk, Northern Hemisphere – we’ll go to the beach and find one of our lovely natives to snooze under! The allegedly largest tree, estimated to be over 350 years old, is at Te Araroa, north of Gisborne. I’ve camped there – it’s gorgeous – but somehow missed the tree. However, I did see the most famous one at the pointy bit of Cape Reinga when I was nine. There’s also a Pohutukawa Coast Trail between Whitford and Clevedon, near Auckland, which sounds lovely. It takes in towns like Beachlands and Maraetai, but also treats you to several kilometres of unspoilt coast. A good idea for working off the Christmas calories?

3. Astronomical Christmas

The Three Wise Men had their stars and here in New Zealand we have the Southern Cross. I wonder where the wise men would have ended up had they followed that? Perhaps Mount John Observatory in the Mackenzie Basin. Actually, astro-tourism is big news down there, thanks to the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the world’s biggest. Companies like Earth & Sky will take you on a tour of the stars, although your feet will remain on the ground and they’re not doing any tours on Christmas Day. Sadly, the Tekapo Springs spa pools will be closed too, but their new cold pools open on Boxing Day.

Who needs twinkling fairy lights?! Head to the observatory for a starry, starry night.

4. Antarctic-al Christmas

If you don’t fancy the beach, the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch is a jolly good alternative. You can slide down an icy slope, brave the wind chill machine at minus-18°C or join the little blue penguins for their Christmas morning and afternoon tea. Yes, that’s right – it is open on Christmas Day. If you don’t like penguin food, though, the award-winning tourist attraction has its own café. Why not have an iced-penguin cookie instead of your usual Christmas pudding?

If you’re in Christchurch, you can spend Christmas Day with the penguins.

5. Practical Christmas

For most of us, Christmas is actually spent at home. The Lynches usually get together for a late lunch, which starts with a Christmas cocktail inspired by someone or other’s travels during the year. Last year, it was a spicy margarita. This year, it’s punch inspired by Hugo’s restaurant at Manly in Sydney. However, the Ginger and I will not be partaking, not because we’ve gone teetotal, but because we’re off to Nelson for a friend’s birthday on Christmas Eve. Ten years ago, we travelled to Kenya for the same friend’s big day, then spent Christmas around a pool eating cobbled-together salads. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you eat, as long as you’re with the ones you love. Happy Christmas!

Merry and light! Gather the whanau, pack up the hamper and take the fun outside.

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