Christmas in New Zealand meant warm weather and a meal at the beach cottage where we went after we’d opened our presents. They had arrived on our beds in a white pillow case which must have made life easy for Father Christmas. We didn’t have Santa Claus in those days. Our seasonal dinner was cold meat, new potatoes and peas and lettuce salad with fresh tomatoes. All the vegetables had come from our garden. If we did have a chicken with sage stuffing and bread dressing , then it probably also came from our back yard as we kept hens there. The elderly non-laying ones were dispatched by my grandfather when my sister ad I were out of the way. As children we never associated the cooked chicken on our plates with one missing from the hen coop and run.
I was thinking about presents and remember getting a watch when I finished primary school and then a box Brownie camera the following year. But the present that made the greatest impression on me was one I received when I was 8 or 9 years old. Dad had displayed in his hardware shop a little painted wardrobe and a matching blue dressing table. I loved them both and would come every day after school just to open and shut the door and drawers. I couldn’t decide which was my favourite until the afternoon when I found the dressing table was gone. Dad told me a man had bought it for his little girl. Then the wardrobe vanished. I could hardly believe my eyes when I found it beside my bed on Christmas morning. The little piece of furniture came with a set of tiny clothes hangers.
Fast forward 70 years to the Christmas I have just experienced. I could never have imagined that an extended family of 22 would sit down in my daughter and son-in-law’s new house to eat a dinner of turkey, ham, salmon vegetables and delicious desserts. The number would have been even greater but 2 grandchildren were visiting other family. We had a fabulous few days of talking, laughing, eating and drinking which included a sleepover. Of course there were presents. I thought I’d be coming home with empty bags and boxes but I hadn’t counted on the lovely gifts that we received. Fortunately the goat from my daughter went to a family overseas as the condo board might have objected to an animal on our terrace.
As a child I never thought about celebrating Christmas in another country and even in another hemisphere with snow on the ground instead of sand. Not that we had a lot of white snow this year but there were some patches up north. I\d never have believed a fortune teller who told me I’d live far away from New Zealand. However it is interesting to have spent Christmases in two such different locations. Right at this moment with grey skies and rain pattering against my windows, I really miss the beach!