On July24th I was super excited, and pretty busy. As soon as I arrived home from work I got busy icing the Christmas cake which I’d made 6weeks previously, before cleaning with plenty of help from my housemate Nadia, and then the important stuff. Decorating. We blew up 20 balloons each, made snowflakes, all while listening to Christmas music. Outside it was dark by 5:30, cold and rainy, just like a typical Christmas in the UK. No wonder I was so excited for July 25th!
Last Christmas felt rather strange, it was summer, hot and sunny. I was away from family and friends on the other side of the world, staying in a hostel with travellers I had met 2 days ago. A group of friends from France cooked a delicious Christmas meal for the hostel on Christmas Eve, which was a fun celebration but felt very strange and different. Christmas morning I headed to the beach with an American girl where we marvelled at sunbathing and swimming in the sea on Christmas day. It didn’t feel right. People were wearing Christmas hats on the beach. That just seemed weird, as did the blow up snow man outside a café, and fake Santa’s decorating a fish and chip shop.
To me, Christmas is cold, admittedly rarely snowy, but definitely wintery. I love eating Christmas dinner, sitting in front of the log fire while roasting chestnuts on it, wrapping up for a short local walk and watching bad Christmas movies with my family. But mostly, as the nights draw in and the days get cooler Christmas is what everyone, young and old, looks forward to. A time to visit family, full of festive spirit, a fantastic celebration to break up Winter and stave off the blues. In New Zealand, there is nothing. No mid winter country wide celebration or festivities, so naturally we decided to have our own. and as the 25th of July was a Saturday, it fell perfectly. It’s no wonder that on the 24th I went to bed excited, and on the 25th I woke up early, as I always do on Christmas day, excited for the celebrations.
This year, I was cooking the roast dinner (for the first time ever!) I was a little nervous, but with recipes for each thing I was making, I figured it would work out, and it did. There was 4 instead of the planned 6 for dinner, as my third housemate and his friend dropped out last minute from the dinner, which I was quite angry about. I didn’t want it to spoil the day though, and most of the food was in the oven, so while my guests enjoyed the warm winters day outside with wine I carried on, hoping the Yorkshire Puddings would rise and that I wouldn’t overcook the Brussels Sprouts.
All was fine though, everything looked great and tasted pretty good (ok, the gravy was a bit of a fail, but we managed). Carving the Chicken was a bit more of a butchering, as no one had carved a roast bird before, but it tasted good (as did the leftovers) and all in all, I was pretty proud of dinner.
After we sat around our Christmas tree, made be Nadia, and took it in turns to open our Secret Santa gifts. My Secret Santa was Hannah, a fellow Brit, and the local UK Goodies shop in Petone was a great place to get a couple of treats from home, as well as some joke pink fluffy handcuffs and a green and red headband! Adarsh had me, and got me a cute ‘Little Miss Naughty’ mug. I’m drinking tea out of it as I write this, and it’s definitely going to get posted hoe when I leave New Zealand. Adarsh got a tie and litre beer glass, while Nadia emotionally received Russian vodka (she is Russian and was so excited that it was all written in Russian!)
It was a gorgeous day, so we headed to the beach for a stroll, Nadia found a washed up Seahorse, and we watched a man do a good deed and wade out thigh high in the cold sea to retrieve a ball for a family playing nearby. Despite the warmth, it seemed festive because everyone was happy and doing good things, having fun. It was pretty brilliant really!
We returned home to play Stick it/ Papers et.c. Piglet was stuck on my forehead, and despite usually being horrifically bad at games like this, I won! I was thrilled. Then we started Christmas Charades, and more friends arrived for a party that evening. The Kiwis amongst them found it strange to celebrate in July, but they all joined with the charades, which became beer pong and the Kings Cup/ Circle of Death/ 4 Kings. The alcohol was diluted with nibbles and dips, and a my boozy Christmas Cake. All in all it was a pretty relaxing, fun day and everyone had a great time.
I would never consider celebrating Christmas in July at home, it would seem strange to have a warm Christmas, but now I’m living in New Zealand I completely understand the appeal of a Christmas in July to expats and travellers, although however, wherever and whenever you celebrate Christmas it’s just not quiet the same as being with your family. Luckily celebrating with friends is a great substitute, and it was close enough to Christmas back home for me to feel all the usual excitement, but different enough that Celebrating a mid winter Christmas didn’t make me feel homesick. Being away from home for festivities can be hard, but luckily this was perfect!