The weeks leading up to Christmas are a busy time for most New Zealanders. We celebrate the end of the school year with concerts or prize giving ceremonies. There are office parties too to celebrate the end of year with work mates. Anyone who belongs to a club – a bridge club, golf club or a choir – also celebrates the end of the year with a dinner or a pot luck where everyone brings some food. Sometimes we are asked to bring a plate for an afternoon tea and that means bring some food on a plate!
Most New Zealanders also send Christmas cards to friends at this time of year. Usually people write a message in the card about the year: what the family members have done, who has graduated, got a new job, got married, had a baby or travelled. People are also busy shopping in the weeks before Christmas, buying gifts for family and friends. Post Shops are busy places too as people post gifts overseas or to other parts of New Zealand.
Traditionally, families buy a branch of a pine tree and put it in a bucket or a stand, then decorate it. Most Christmas trees have coloured lights on them too. Some children hang up a stocking for Santa to fill on Christmas Eve. Young children like to visit Santa in a Mall or a shop and tell him what they want for Christmas. While children around the age of eight usually guess that Santa is really their parents, most children like to keep the secret from their younger brothers and sisters.
Of course Christmas is the time for Christians to remember the birth of Christ. Many churches have a service at midnight on Christmas Eve and family services on Christmas Day. Some people who do not go to church regularly, still like to attend a Christmas service. Christmas carols are popular both in and out of church. The most well known carol is ‘Silent Night’.
The traditional Christmas dinner in New Zealand used to be a leg of lamb, new potatoes and garden peas followed by strawberries and pavlova. Roast turkey has replaced lamb in many households. A barbecue or picnic on the beach are also favourite ways to celebrate Christmas if it is a hot day.
However, the most important thing about Christmas for most New Zealanders is that it is a time for families and friends to get together. It is quite common for sons and daughters who are living and working overseas or in other parts of New Zealand, to make a special effort to come home for Christmas. In this way it is like Asian New Year.