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My Christmas experience: Spain vs New Zealand!

(Above are flowers from the Pohutakawa Tree, NZ´s christmas tree)

Christmas, for me, has always been a little bit of an ordeal. The stress of finding the perfect presents (and affording them!!), socialising with a large number of people, making or buying cards, getting in contact with people just to say “happy christmas!” and of course the cooking!

But despite all of that, it has also always been one of the best times of the year! I get to see my family, eat lots of delicious food, give and receive presents and did I mention eat a lot of food?

(Chocolate brownie and a fruity salad… Delicious!)

In my family, christmas is not only, you know, christmas, but also a reunion of family members who otherwise don’t see each other very often. We usually have around 30 people at one house, and we celebrate in this way every second year.

We devour an enormous christmas lunch outside, usually involving a barbecue, fresh summer fruit, pavlova, and cold salads. The dogs and children run around on the lawn, or the beach, with hoses and water guns, squirting water all over the place, laughing and playing all day.

(On the left, a yummy looking dessert. On the right, the famous KiwiFruit Pavlova!)

The adults sometimes join in, but mostly they relax with a wine or beer or juice and catch up on everything that has happened over the last two years, since the last christmas reunion.

(Setting up the chairs before the main lot of family arrives)

In New Zealand the days are hot, and everyone is slathered in sunscreen to protect us from the UV rays pouring through the hole in the ozone layer. We go to the beach, on bush walks, camping and all sorts of other outdoor activities. We eat buckets of icecream, and so many watermelon we lose count.

(Here’s the table all set out ready for Christmas lunch! The barbecue may be covered for now, but later it was put to good use!)

Out christmas trees are decorated the same as in Spain: tinsel, fake snow, snowflakes, twinkling lights. But outside doesn’t match the trees. We make sand castles instead of snowmen, play outside in shorts instead of inside in jerseys.

(The view from my Aunty’s house, where we spent this particular Christmas. Note the Punga (tree ferns) and the other greenery)

For me, three years since I left New Zealand, and my 4th Spanish christmas in, I still find it all a little… sad. I can’t help but miss the heat, the outdoor meal, the kids running around outside.. it just doesn’t feel like christmas. Everything is a little off.

But that doesn’t mean christmas in Spain doesn’t have its merits! Here there are the roasted chestnuts, the fireplaces and worm stoves, the hot, satisfying meals, the crunch of frost under my boots and the taste of Spain’s most amazing, scrumptious invention ever: Turrón!

People are always telling me that we, in New Zealand, do christmas wrong. That Christmas must be cold outside and cozy inside. That it should be spent sitting around a stove or hearth, and not toasting marshmallows over a beach fire in the middle of the night. I’m sure that over the next few years I’ll get used to christmas in Spain, and no longer feel just a teeny bit of moriña for my home country. But I will always consider summer the best time to celebrate, and New Zealand as the best place to do it!


(A photo of a steaming thermal stream running into lake Rotorua)


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