In New Zealand, it is hard to make comparisons between there Christmas celebrations and ours back home. Yes they still celebrate it with presents, a few decorations and the annual Boxing Day sales, but that is it. Christmas in New Zealand is very plain otherwise, and I found myself pining for the traditions of the UK.
The first obvious difference was the weather. Never have I experienced a Christmas where the weather is 30c. It is the most bizarre thing, opening presents with all the windows open - forget chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It was so tiring opening presents, that we did not even open them till the afternoon, about the only traditional thing we did do that day.
My celebrations started off with a lie in, rudely interrupted by the prospect of a trek through the New Zealand bush. Sounds fun right? Well, it was I guess. We spent three hours exploring remote rainforest and rapids, clearing our path through the woodland, stopping off now and then when we found an oasis of natural spring water. Half way through, we found ourselves splashing about in white-water rapids, helplessly clinging on to rocks as we cooled off from the tiring trek. Not your usual Christmas morning!
Returning home, it was all systems go as the bird was stuffed - I point black refused having a BBQ, let the English boy have some tradition - and the veg was prepared. I guess Turkey is quite popular in New Zealand, it certainly took us a while to locate one, most of the supermarkets were sold out. After unwrapping presents, pulling crackers - festive ones I had bought over from England, they do not seem to sell them over in NZ - and eating good food, you could say tradition was restored.
But even the Turkey did not feel right. It just did not feel like Christmas. The few weeks build up before Christmas were replaced by the excitement of my holiday, so I guess you could say that I was preoccupied with my holiday then worry about the annual Christmas break. Which is exactly how I felt the Kiwi's view Christmas as; just an opportunity to get the family round, fire up the BBQ and sit back with a beer and a glass of wine. They do not really do the whole decorations thing, they are not bothered about good food and do not really care about getting up early the next day to queue for the latest bargains.
If I could use one word to say what New Zealand was missing at Christmas, I would say it was the 'commercialised' nature of Christmas (OK, maybe that is four.) I know we forget about the real meaning of Christmas, and all respect to the religious guys and girls among us, but to me it means going mad on presents, eating lots of food, watching great TV and queueing up the next day to buy lots of cheap bargains.
So forget the weather, forget the real meaning of Christmas - all I want for next Christmas, is a good old dose of commercial crap and advertising!