Well I’ve gone and started it now, haven’t I?
Got us all thinking about Xmas (not that you could avoid it in all honesty). So I thought I’d put it out there in a Tyranny of Convenience kinda way to find out what your ideal or fantasy Christmas would look like and what your actual Christmas is going to look like.
Years ago my family started to have picnics on Christmas day – we live in the southern hemisphere, don’tcha know – and after all it’s usually hot and sunny on the 25th. It was a kind of revelation. All my life we’d had the ‘traditional’ northern hemisphere Christmas experience – our parents were from Northern Ireland – and we were brought up with hot turkey, stuffing, vegetables and hot Christmas pudding with custard etc. Eaten inside on a 28 degree day isn’t really what you wanted as a kid with a brand new water pistol from Santa.
Likewise the trappings were all northern hemisphere-oriented: wrapping paper with snow and sleighs and reindeer; tree decorations with snow globes, tinsel snow etc. Everywhere you looked – winter. And this wasn’t just our family of course – the whole damn country was obsessed with Christmas ‘back home.’ Everywhere you went you were beaten around the head with carols like White Christmas and Jingle Bells. All totally meaningless to a southern hemisphere culture in December when you stop and think about it.
And yet, I loved it. I’m not for an instant suggesting that I was in any way deprived as a result of a culturally topsy turvy Christmas. It’s just a strange fact. Slowly over the years, New Zealand has been creating a Christmas iconography all of its own. BBQs and beaches are replacing snow-filled countrysides as the settings for festivities. Kiwis (the bird, that is) wearing jandals, floppy sun hats and sunglasses deliver presents to kids playing beach cricket, wearing zinc and swimming trunks while mums and dads lounge around the bbq on deck chairs with ice cold beer or perhaps a glass of sauvignon blanc. There’s a great kids book called ‘A Kiwi Night Before Christmas‘ recasting the classic rhyme in a kiwi setting:
It was the night before Christmas, and all round the bach
Not a possum was stirring; not one we could catch.
We left on the table a meat pie and beer,
In hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here.
Who inevitably arrives on his trusty tractor complete with sheepdog. And there’s been one or two attempts at some kiwi christmas carols too. Perhaps the most memorable by Lindon Puffin – ‘Pohutakawa Xmas’ – which seems to annually duke it out with Snoopy’s Christmas for the top spot on the Yuletide Charts. I wish I could link you to it – it sums up a southern hemisphere xmas experience perfectly.
Nowadays our annual xmas lunch generally revolves around a gourmet BBQ but there’s still some ‘traditional’ elements of our past – roast turkey, ham, Christmas pudding. But our tree is a Rata in full bloom – alive! Which is how you tend to feel at this time of year. We’ll gorge ourselves beyond what is seemly, drink far too much wine, there’s bound to be at least 3 types of dessert including 2 trifles and the whole thing followed by the richest xmas cake known to mankind with whisky and wearing those daft wee paper hat crowns from Christmas Crackers while endlessly reciting sketches from Monty Python’s Flying Circus and singing old TV theme tunes. If we don’t haul ourselves out for a stroll to the timeball it’ll be snooze o’clock for all concerned. And I wouldn’t have it any other way, except maybe…
This post was inspired by an article on one of my favourite websites right now The Idle Parent (check out the manifesto!) about their ‘fantasy family Christmas’. It’s a cracker, I hope you enjoy it and I hope you are finding and making your peace out there, wherever you are.
So, your fantasy yuletide vs. the reality? – let’s have it!