Christmas in New Zealand is more social than commercial, just the way I like it. One would have to look pretty hard to find a Christmas tree lot around here, as the Christmas tree of choice down here is the pohutakawa, a relative of the bottle brush, which blossoms in a crimson red each season about this time.
While traveling from country to country, where traditions change with each port of call, I preferred to just go with the local flow. Since I’ve been hanging around New Zealand for the last few southern summers, I’ve developed a bit of tradition of my own, shaped in part by my circle of friends here.
Christmas is usually spent socializing with friends in some fashion. One year, we organized an “orphans’” cruise on Moonshadow, with about eight Australian, American, British and Canadian ex-pat friends who had no local family. What started out as an afternoon in a lovely anchorage off nearby Motuihi Island turned into a huge slumber party, as nobody wanted to go home!
The Pohutakawa or “Kiwi Christmas Tree”
The day after Christmas is usually spent at the horse races at Ellerslie Racecourse. The Boxing Day meet is one of Auckland’s premier fashion and social events each year. The atmosphere is electric, the fashionis stylish (particularly the hats), and the champagne is flowing. The party is periodically interrupted by some horses taking a quick run around the track. Post-race festivities continue in the pubs and restaurants in the fashionable suburb of Parnell.