I turned 30 in New Zealand sometime before Christmas. I was in shorts and a tank top, showing off my beer by the pool.


A photo posted by @warwick.meade on

This has never happened in my life before. Every birthday prior required a puffy coat and winter accessories since it would have been winter in Atlanta, New York or DC.

Was having a summer birthday mindshattering? I mean, it was different. It happened to be 27 degrees Celsius, or 70ish degrees Fahreinheit. Which is similar to what the weather may have been in Central Florida or Southern California. I was looking forward to a warm-weather birthday, after three decades of cold. Nothing against the cold, but still: I WENT SWIMMING ON MY BIRTHDAY.

All the Christmas babies: high five me.

There are some aspects of New Zealand Christmas that are fairly universal. People still decorate their homes with lights, similar to the neighborhood I grew up in outside Atlanta. The major difference being that one of the Hamilton-decorated homes had Santa visiting. Hillbrooke sets the standard high, but never had Santa for kids to visit at night. Score one for Hamilton.

We still wake up at crack of dawn to open presents, eat big meals, Skype with family and friends and hope that we accurately computed the time zone difference, eat again, pass out…

What does render New Zealand Christmas as unique is the pairing of summer activities to a holiday those in the Northern Hemisphere associate with snow. Which is funny: The snow motif still exists in New Zealand, Australia and in many places in Southeast Asia. But also: I saw some giftwrap at the Warehouse (kinda like Walmart) that had beach chairs, bikinis, and other summery things along with presents on it.

You can still have a white Christmas, in that antipodean libations will be more of the bubbly and Sauvignon Blanc kind, sipping it slowly [quickly] as if it were any other summer evening. The Northern Hemisphere would probably prefer a red wine because it warms you up. Unless you just like wine, in that case, you’ll drink whatever whenever regardless of weather.

There is so much ice cream, which isn’t really a Christmas thing as much as it is a New Zealand thing. New Zealanders eat 23 liters of ice cream per capita per year. I’ve eaten ice cream every night since we arrived. Whatever backpacking weight loss I had is almost gone. Maybe. Don’t care. Food is for eating, life is for living. And it’s summer. Pass the passionfruit ripple.

Here’s a new thing I’ve never experienced: watching the Queen’s Christmas message. New Zealand is the first country to view the message, being it’s the Commonwealth country closest to the International Date Line and therefore first to celebrate Christmas. We sat to watch it, since there was some family speculation that HRH may make some news. Nope. Just Christmas greetings. Very nice.

Overall, Christmas was incredibly lovely and I hope I’ll have better observations on differences between U.S. and New Zealand Christmas in future years. I suppose that on the first one [first Christmas away from home, in a foreign land, in a different season], the observations are going to be shallow and obvious.

On Boxing Day, I’ll go check out some sales and buy some housewares and some cellphone burners. Can’t do too much to move the visa along since the immigration office is closed until the new year.

This weekend, we’ll go up to Auckland to find a place. (!) I can’t wait to write up some posts on Auckland, and start nesting.

I hope you all had a very happy holiday with your families wherever you may be in the world.