What does Christmas mean to us in New Zealand?

Children in Santa hats at the beach with Christmas tree
“We embrace the day in our togs, rather than our sweaters…”

Commercially Christmas is known around the world as the time where we come together as a family, nice and warm in our Christmas sweaters and we open presents to the sympathy of Jingle bells, playing in the background. Yes, to the rest of the world Christmas is an experience that is celebrated in the winter months, with the classic Christmas memory having snow all around us. New Zealand, however, is different. We lose the Sweaters and opt for more casual clothing such as t-shirts and jandals. We do this, not because we are all born tough and resistant to the weather, but because a Classic Kiwi Christmas is done in the sun.

Us Kiwis as well as our neighbouring country of Australia, are lucky enough to celebrate Christmas during our summer holiday period. We don’t throw snowballs and instead opt for cricket balls. We leave the sledge at home and instead take the boogie board to the beach. The Classic Kiwi Christmas is a celebration the rest of the world may never get to experience. So we thought we would go ahead and reverse the norms of being a humble New Zealander, and brag to everyone, what having a Kiwi Christmas is like!

Writing to Santa

How is Santa meant to know what to get us if we don’t tell him? Writing to Santa is a classic tradition for New Zealand children, writing out a wish list and letting Santa know how we wish to be spoilt. We’ll never forget the excitement and joy we felt when we sent off our personalised message, addressed to Santa’s Workshop, North Pole 0001.

The Santa Parade

Who doesn’t like kicking off the Christmas period with a parade down the main street of our town? The Santa parade is a classic Christmas experience in New Zealand as every major city has one. From Auckland to Invercargill, cities across the country welcome in the holiday season with a parade filled with members of the communities own floats and decorations.

Advent Calendars

We also welcome in December by starting up our advent calendars to help us count down the number of sleeps until the big day. Nothing beats starting every day off with a chocolate treat. Advent calendars help build anticipation for Christmas day as well as teach us valuable lessons on self-control. We recall several years, struggling to hold back the desire of eating all the chocolates, while simultaneously fighting off our siblings from our chocolates as they did not have the self-control to prevent themselves from finishing it early.

The Barbie

Now when we say Barbie, we aren’t referring to the doll. Many New Zealand families opt for a seasonal BBQ during the day while saving the traditional roast meal for later in the evening. Firing up one of these bad boys at lunchtime with your family and friends, while the young ones run around in the sun with their new toys, is the ideal way to fill in the day. A BBQ on Christmas day is about as traditional as it gets, who doesn’t love a good snag with sauce in bread before digging into the Pavlova.

Bring a Towel

Forget the winter wonderland and say hello to the beach, the water is where New Zealanders choose to spend their time around Christmas. The weather is hot, and we are all in holiday mode, as we flock to camping grounds or holiday homes away by the lakes or beaches around the country. Swimming, boating, skiing and water fights, fill up our day as we embrace the celebration in our togs, rather than our sweaters.


Let’s set the record straight, Pavlova is from New Zealand and not Australia, this got officially declared in 2010 by the Oxford English Dictionary. The sweet sugary delicacy, often enjoyed with a topping of fruit, is a kiwi classic at Christmas time. Often brought along by nana, the Pavlova is always made on Christmas Eve and served up with tip-top ice cream on the side.

Pohutukawa Tree

The Metrosideros excels, more commonly known as the Pohutukawa or New Zealand Christmas tree, is our countries symbol for Christmas. Been used as decoration in many historic New Zealand Christmas celebrations by both European and Maori. Now the Pohutukawa is used on most New Zealand Christmas memorabilia such as cards and stamps so that our loved ones that are celebrating abroad don’t forget about home.


Christmas isn’t Christmas without a little bit of family rivalry, and well what a perfect way to experience it than with a friendly, competitive game of Backyard/Beach Cricket. Every family has received a cricket set at least once in their life. Who can remember having either our father or uncle, give us a two minute lesson on how to bat, before he puts down his stubby and bowls it straight down the middle of the stumps, revealing their true savage nature. The massive family cricket games are always a laugh as you find out just how much of a legend your old man really was or else that your aunt has had a few too many. You can’t spell New Zealand Christmas without cricket! Well actually you can, but having a game on Christmas day can always make it an instant Classic Kiwi experience.

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