A Very Kiwi Christmas

We enjoyed a Christmas party with Happy Feet, a group for mums and little ones (bubs) that meets at the church.
We enjoyed a Christmas party with Happy Feet, a group for mums and little ones (bubs) that meets at the church.
Jaron's mom made this precious (and sturdy) nativity last year. It joined us in NZ where sees a lot of narrative "action"--retelling the story of Jesus' birth and otherwise.
Jaron’s mom made this precious (and sturdy) nativity last year. It joined us in NZ where sees a lot of narrative “action”–retelling the story of Jesus’ birth and otherwise.
Jaron and Q at Blue Springs in Waikato
Jaron and Q at Blue Springs in Waikato last weekend
It's picnic season.
It’s picnic season.


‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

Not much looked very festive, just the tiniest ounce (oh wait…that’s not metric)

Three stockings were hung on the wood walls with care

On oddly spaced nails that had already been there

A hand-made nativity perched near the TV stand

Awaiting numerous retellings oft reenacted unplanned

And mama in her workout capris, and I in my shorts

Relaxed as the warm breeze blew in from the north

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter

I sprang from my couch to see what was the matter

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the curtains and pushed open the glass.

The sun on the breast of the fresh-mown grass

Revealed lush green and a hydrangea deep purple at last

When what to my wondering eyes did appear

But a passel of small children heading to the pool that’s near.

With little bike riders so lively and quick

I knew in a moment this wasn’t a trick

More rapid than eagles the vacationers came,

Others whistled, and shouted, and hopped on a plane

To Brittan! To Aussie! Now a beach or a mount!

On a trip! On holiday! We’re off! School’s out!

To the islands up north! They’ve been planning since fall…

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

Last week, school let out for the summer holiday. Kids are running around in shorts and bare feet. The breeze is ruffling the curtains as it provides some cool relief from the afternoon sun. Businesses are shutting down. “I’ll be back mid-January” automated e-mail responses have been set. The beaches are filling up and every flight off the island is packed. It’s Christmas-time in New Zealand.

We’re experiencing a very kiwi Christmas, indeed. We live very near one of the biggest shopping districts in the country where a giant Christmas tree graces the lawn where the children play while parents shop. Garland with gold and red ornaments are draped across the store fronts. But it’s just not quite the same. For one thing, there are very few Christmas lights. After all, what’s the point, when it’s still light outside at 9:30 p.m.? No one is rushing in out of the cold. Santa costumes lack fur and padding (who can blame them?). But there are other things that seem slightly amiss too—we haven’t seen one Salvation Army bell ringer, despite the fact that the Salvation Army has a significant presence in New Zealand. Very few houses have wreaths on their doors and we haven’t spotted any lawn decorations—tacky or otherwise. There’s no Christmas music station on the radio.

When I mentioned these differences to a kiwi friend, he pointed out that most of the traditions associated with secular Christmas celebrations apply to the Northern Hemisphere where candles and Christmas lights distract from cold, dark nights and greenery gives life to barren landscapes. Then he quickly said, “The biggest culture shock I ever experienced was walking into an American mall at Christmas time. I just said… ‘Let’s get out of here!’ The displays piled high. The music. The decorations. The people. It was just too much.”

That’s not to say that kiwis aren’t as easily distracted. They’ve had graduations and Christmas parties and end-of-the-school-year celebrations on top of each other for back-to-back weekends. Not to mention plans to holiday abroad, trips to the beach, days on the lake, and two weeks to a month off of work for almost everyone!

We’re not gallivanting off of the island we’re just getting settled on, but we do have a very kiwi Christmas planned. (Disclaimer in case you’re feeling sorry for us: We celebrated Christmas all-out, tradition-packed Northern-hemisphere-style with our families in November.) We’ll celebrate with our new church family on Christmas Eve—though many kiwi churches opt for a Christmas morning service. Our tremendously gracious neighbors down the street have invited us to join their family for Christmas brunch that is sure to include sausages, sweet mince pies, and tea. Then, we’ll load the car with a camp-stove we discovered in our garage and cookout foods and drive about 45 minutes to Raglan, a beach town with black volcanic beaches and a big reputation among surfers. We’ll dip our toes in the cold surf and fly a kite per Q’s request months before we moved. “When we live in Moo Zealand, can I get a kite and fly it really, really high?” Your wish is our command, Buddy.

And in the midst of it all…big moves and new cultural norms to navigate or gifts to wrap and food to bake, Christmas lights or no Christmas lights, shorts or sweaters, ski slopes or beaches, the Kingdom is breaking in as surely and as quietly as it did all of those years ago when in the middle of the night a special star appeared in the sky, angels made a fantastic announcement to a bunch of unsuspecting, rag tag shepherds and a young girl gave birth to a baby in a barn. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be so caught up in the differences (or the sameness), the decorations (or lack thereof), the holiday hoopla (or the relaxation of a summer vacation day) that I miss what this Advent season has been preparing us for. All the expectation and waiting and anticipation will culminate in the profound truth that the Light has come. Christ has come.


Parting Shots (1 just doesn’t do it justice this week)

Blue Springs is the location of some of the purest water in New Zealand. The water spends up to 100 years filtering through rocks to this spring. The blue tint to the water denotes it’s purity.

Blue Springs 1


  1. Meri Kirihimete, from Kansas City! I’m enjoying reading your blog and viewing pics from my old stomping ground. Enjoy your very Kiwi Christmas; they are the best! If you head up north anytime soon, please give my love to the Auckland and Whangarei crews!

    • Hi Alison!! So good to hear from you. Thanks for friending on Facebook too! 🙂 We’re headed up to the youth camp around the 18th of Jan. We will definitely pass along your greetings!! What should we should be sure to do while we’re up there?

  2. Dear Jaron
    No not another gift that God has blessed you with– a fine poet!! I just want to spit cuz you have been the recipient of so many God’s gifts!
    Guess what? Remember when you preached one Sun and mentioned “Hank, the Cow Dog.” Soon after I checked out one of the books from the library! Got quite a kick out of it!! Sometimes a good children’s book is “just what the Dr ordered” for me and my old brain!
    Sure miss you all!!

    • Hey Cindy,
      Thanks writing!. I have to confess that Elizabeth actually wrote that poem. She was following the form of the original poem. Before we posted it we neither one thought about people thinking I had written it, but several have mentioned it. Elizabeth is definitely the poet of this family.
      I’m glad you enjoyed Hank the Cowdog. They are great books and funny no matter how old we get. We miss you too. Thanks for the note!

  3. Merry Christmas to you all! I love seeing your magnet and sending up a little prayer for the work you’re doing. God bless you all.

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