Christmas in New Zealand

My wonderful family has come all the way from Canada to be with me on Christmas, which has become somewhat of a tradition since my first time living away from home in Australia 6 years ago.

I get way too excited when they come to visit and want to show them everything a country has to offer in the span of like 2 weeks. It’s tough. So for New Zealand we’ve narrowed it down to Auckland, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Napier, Wellington and Queenstown. We’ve spent the last week making our way around Auckland and down through the North Island to Wellington by car, stopping for some key tourist activities and some more off the beaten track.

It’s been a full few days! We arrived in Wellington last night, settled into our adorable little apartment, and basically went straight to sleep.

Now it’s Christmas Eve Day (is that the correct way to say it? Weird) and we only have a short time to see Wellington before flying to Queenstown. I’m low key regretting spreading our time out so much, because I love Wellington and think there’s so much cool stuff to do, which certainly can’t all be squeezed into one day! Especially when we all still need to do a little last minute gift shopping.

I find it so hard to pick great gifts when we’re travelling because obviously I don’t want to buy something that will be a nuisance to get home. Luckily, I was able to give my dad and brother an “experience” gift early, because my flatmate is a hobby pilot and offered to take them flying over Auckland and the west coast beaches last week. A pretty rad gift if I do say so myself. Sev even got to fly the plane for a little bit!

We split up to do our shopping, and while I’m with Dad buying a greenstone necklace for Mom, we get chatting with the woman who runs the shop, and realize we have a common connection in Canada. Her family owns the venue where my Dad’s company has just held their annual Christmas party. These things used to surprise me, but honestly, it happens all the time. It’s crazy how often you find connections like this, but imagine how many people you might speak to or pass on the street without ever knowing how closely connected you really are!

After shopping I have to swing by my favourite piece of street art, an epic mural of uniquely painted sharks which was created to raise awareness about finning, which the New Zealand government has since banned. Pretty cool.

Even cooler, is the new piece I find just around the corner which highlights the dangers of plastic in the ocean. That is one major thing Auckland lacks – street art, which I think gives a city a soul. Auckland has no soul.

As we’re staying in an apartment with a full kitchen, and couldn’t find any open restaurants we really wanted to try, we’ve decided to have a low key Christmas Eve dinner…. and just make a giant charcuterie platter. I help Dad pick up a ton of cheese, meat, crackers, olives, and other charcuterie staples. We try our best to include some classic Danish bits as we normally would at home when we have a full smorgesboard, but it’s a bit of a struggle.

One tradition we’ve always had is hiding one almond in rice pudding for a first course, and giving whoever finds it a prize, usually chocolate, or, when we were smaller, a beanie baby. Can’t imagine my uncle would have really wanted to take that prize home. Curious that a child always won…wait a minute…

Without being able to find rice pudding, in a grocery store filled to the brim with last-minute shoppers, we settle for cinnamon apple yoghurt, and I steal one almond from the bulk section.

We head home to drop off groceries, wrap gifts and regroup. Sev and I take a walk down along the waterfront even though it’s classic Wellington weather – overcast, windy, and relatively cold. Wellington’s waterfront is sooooo much cooler than Auckland’s and I wanted to make sure he got to see it in the 24ish hours we’re here. We also dip into the Te Papa museum quickly to see the bush walk and colossal squid but the squid is not on display – being restored or something. One good thing about a totally free museum, is that you don’t feel you need to spend all day there to get your money’s worth!

Back at “home” we settle in with The Nightmare Before Christmas, then prepare our Christmas charcuterie boards. Honestly, this is easy AND delicious, and if I ever host Christmas at my house, this will be how I roll. I can call it nostalgic and say “it’s like that time we had a Kiwi Christmas hahaha” as I fill the dishwasher with one small load of dishes and call it a day.

Dinner is casual but lovely. Dad has even brought proper Danish snapps all the way from Canada but we don’t have shot glasses so we drink it from our wine glasses instead. Is it possible for snapps to burn more depending on the glassware? I’m not a true Dane. I much prefer the various New Zealand wines we brought down with us from the wineries in Hawkes Bay.

After dinner we open our presents and watch Love Actually. It’s a low key Christmas for sure, and I’m sad that my Gramma couldn’t be here this year (as the flight from Canada is something like 25 hours) but love that I can spend the holidays in the company of my parents and brother, together on the other side of the world, still feeling at home.

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