20 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas: Sun and Barbeques

It's BBQ weather!
Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere can be a confusing time for traditions and imagery from the Northern Hemisphere because it is a winter holiday. Not snow-frosted Christmas trees or hot winter drinks here in New Zealand: Christmas is the time you go to the beach, have barbecues, go hiking, and enjoy the summer weather. The days before Christmas can feel like the longest days of the year when you are a child, but in the Southern Hemisphere, they actually are the longest days of the year. The Southern Summer Solstice falls just before Christmas.

As Christmastime nears, all the stereotypical European/American Christmas goods come available, but are slightly out of context. Figgy pudding, pannetone, and roast chicken make a little bit less sense in the middle of summer, even though they are always a treat. This is what Christmas in July is like.

A true Christmas gift from nature, berries come into season in the months leading up to Christmas
None of this actually seems that strange to us after spending a majority of both of our lives in warmer weather or southern hemisphere locales. Until several people asked us whether it was strange to celebrate a summer Christmas (apparently this is a main source of consternation among Americans in NZ), we hadn't given it a thought. When we do reflect on it, it is odd to be drinking thick, warm drinks in hot weather, or spending time baking in a hot kitchen during the warmest time of year, but Christmastime foods just have to be made at Christmas - or at least we like to think so.

Christmas Cookies
This year has been an amazing, fun, stressful, and exciting year. It began with Elena working on the Ko e Hala Hangatonu project and exhibition with an amazing group of people, and then spending nearly two months on a short term job cover (incidentally for the job she's doing now). I started working a lot more on photography, and racked up several thousand pictures in our last months in Tonga. Nearing mid-year, we knew change was coming, but were in a state of complete, uncertain flux and when the dust settled, we found ourselves here in Wellington and excited for a new adventure. Elena started her new job, I started my masters in Public Management, and we started adjusting to life in NZ. 

Common Christmas Apparel
As the year comes to a close, we will be spending Christmas with friends that we have met here in New Zealand. We'll be baking cookies, making decorations, and doing the Northern Hemisphere things that we grew up with, but we will also probably go to a barbecue or two, go to summer concerts, and explore the hiking trails in and around Wellington. Though still capricious, the weather in Wellington is generally improving weekly, allowing us to run about unencumbered by winter clothing.

Chocolate production ramps up for Christmas here as in all other anglo-American countries
While the disconnects between Christmas traditions and where it is celebrated have never really bothered us, Christmas has typically been a time we spend with family. Living abroad forces you to form family with whomever is around. In Tonga, we celebrated Christmas with our close friends, and here in New Zealand, we will do the same. And while we miss our natural families, this is a good opportunity to get closer to the people we have come to care about in our new home here.

Poinsettia never signified Christmas to me, but they're pretty to have around
When Christmas is separated from Northern winters, it really is starting to look a lot like Christmas here in New Zealand, and we'll celebrate it just as much joy.

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas, Elena and Mark! Enjoy your warm Christmas with the friends you have around you. Rex and I have our tree up and have been drinking warm apple cider and hot chocolate. It's sweater weather here in L.A., but definitely not snowy or super cold. No matter what the temperature, you are right, there are some Christmas traditions that it is fun to carry on regardless!


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