This year it was hard to get in the Christmas spirit. I think that is because New Zealand does Christmas very differently than the states.
The obvious difference is that in New Zealand Christmas occurs just a couple days after the summer solstice, so it was light until 9:30pm, sunny, and in the 70s-80s F. That just doesn’t feel like Christmas. Coupled with the weather, New Zealanders don’t hunker down on Christmas. It is an outside holiday, where you normally grill, enjoy the slip-n-slide, and eat popsicles. It sounds lovely and enjoyable, but honestly the difference in environment made it hard for me to get in the Christmas spirit.
Another difference is Christmas lights. They are rare. People just don’t do them. Many towns have a few lights on the main street in the downtown section. I saw less than five houses that had light displays out. To be fair New Plymouth has the Festival of Lights, which is a public light display that lasts two months in a park near our house, but that does not really have the feel of Christmas, as it is more of an art installation.
Christmas trees. There are actually a fair number of places to buy them. They tend to be reasonably priced, $20-50USD where we got ours. The rip off is the stands, which they want $30USD for. Don’t get me started on that. Many businesses also have Christmas trees out. I have to admit, this is one area that New Zealand does well. It might have something to do with it being so green and that trees grow like weeds here.
New Zealanders just don’t have the holiday spirit that is exuded in the US. You could say that it is a good thing, but Katy would strongly disagree. It is hard to really describe this, other than they care about having the holidays off from work and care less about the actual holidays. Katy worked New Years Eve, and it was the only emergency department she has ever worked in that didn’t acknowledge when it turned midnight (which happened 18 hours earlier than for you on the East Coast).
The one thing that they do better in New Zealand for the holidays is time off of work. All but a few businesses are actually mandated to be off on Christmas Day. The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, and the day after New Years Day are both federal holidays. Restaurants that are open on Christmas/New Years charge a 50% holiday supplement to cover the increased wages they need to pay their employees. Many businesses are closed until January 3rd or the following Monday, January 7th. This year many businesses start their holiday the Friday before Christmas. That meant that A TON of small businesses were closed from 12/22 to 1/7 this past Christmas. This ranges from restaurants to auto repair shops. I am used to limited hours on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day, not businesses closing for over two weeks. It honestly is not a bad thing.
We had a great Christmas with Tristan and Lemac (who is used to summer Christmas from growing up in Brazil), but it was a very different Christmas season than in the States.