This week, we’re savoring this season of Christmas, the sunshine, the celebrations, and the slow-paced days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. All around us (and on our social media feeds), there are reminders that we’re deep into the season of Christmas. These are 10 signs it’s Christmastime in New Zealand. And, while some of these are slightly belated because the days leading up to Christmas are full-on in every first world country, we’re not finished with our Christmas celebrations just yet. My parents are coming next week, and we can hardly wait!
So, in the spirit of the season…
You know it’s Christmas in the Southern hemisphere when…
Santa-types are wearing fake beards, black boots, a red, red coat and matching pants rugby shorts, and a cut off t-shirt.
Also, if rugby shorts and cut off sleeves are not your thing, rest assured. They sell Santa costumes like this one with shorts and short sleeves.
Families are watching ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Frosty’ in Christmas jammies short-sleeved pjs.
Every event has mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows water with ice.
There’s an explosion of red baubles, stockings, wreaths and heavily decorated Christmas trees strawberries, cherries, and heavily flowered Pohutakawa trees.
This picture was taken on a trip over to the Coromandel Peninsula last month when the Pohutakawa trees were just turning. Now the coastlines are filled with the vibrant red blooms of the “kiwi Christmas tree.” This one has a stunning view of the marine reserve.
The oven BBQ grill has been working non-stop in preparation for Christmas dinner. (We had a fresh caught snapper served grill-side for our Christmas dinner.)
Dining tables Picnic tables are laden with festive foods of every kind.
We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends. Precious people, great fun (and nerf wars), delectable foods, and the most stunning setting makes for a wonderful celebration. (P.S. There really is brown on those hills. Can you believe it? After an exceptionally wet start to the year, we have been unusually warm and dry for over a month.)
Worshipers gather for Christmas Eve candlelight services Christmas morning daylight services. (There’s just something odd about a candlelight service when you’ve just had the longest day of the year. That said, we still had a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We joined our friends at an Anglican/Methodist/Presbyterian Cooperating Church for Christmas morning.)
Cities Beaches are bustling.
Flipping the calendar to January means going back to work summer holiday, church camps, and 3 consecutive weeks off work for many. (We don’t have a three-week holiday coming up anytime soon, but we are making the most of summer vacation and looking forward to a few days at youth camp in a couple of weeks!
We’ve spent the rest of our holiday week hosting friends, picking strawberries, playing tennis, and catching up on a few work-related projects. Shhh… don’t tell the kiwis. They’re all in full vacation mode.
Life gets back to normal January February 2. (Actually, Q will be back to school and our mums’ groups will resume February 7. There’s a new year to ring in and plenty of fun to be had between now and then!)
Merry Christmas from the Southern Hemisphere. We hope you are warm (by the sun or the fireplace), well fed (with fresh fruit or comfort foods), and enjoying family and friends who are like family!
We’re anticipating the a monarch butterfly from this cocoon sometime this week.
Easter is a big deal. Actually, that is quite understated. Easter is the biggest deal. Death conquered. Hope restored. Fear eliminated. Life granted. Christians around the world intentionally journey through the wilderness of Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday before we arrive at Easter Sunday.
Glorious Easter Sunday. It has long been my favorite celebration of the entire year. It’s a day of grand celebration marked by Easter lilies and the promise of spring; the church family gathered and the Christ candle lit; joyful singing and responses of “He is risen, indeed!”; bread eaten and cup offered; pastel ties and bright floral dresses; ham and deviled eggs and a table full of the most delicious desserts. The very essence of remembering Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is tied to the very rhythm of the earth, with Easter Sunday falling on the first Sunday after the northern hemisphere’s spring Equinox. All of creation seems to shout—Christ is risen! Spring is here! There’s new life in Christ! Out of the barren wilderness of winter, we experience the hope and anticipation and alive-ness of spring.
Except in the southern hemisphere.
I totally get that nearly 90% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere. For 90% of the world, Easter falls in the spring time… a time when trees and flowers bloom and even the cute little bunnies and baby chicks signify new life. But for the other 10% of the world’s population, the celebration of the resurrection takes places as the leaves are changing colors, the weather is cooling, the flower blooms are fading, and living things are in the process of decaying. Where’s the hope in that?
The fact is that the majority of world’s symbols surrounding major holidays come from the western countries that colonized the likes of New Zealand and the great economic drivers of the world found in North America. The rest of the world tags along even when snow in the tropics and pastels in the fall make no sense at all. Granted, egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, and new spring dresses are obvious non-essentials (and… gasp… even distractions) to the celebration of Easter. But if we removed the Easter lilies, sprouting grass, and freshly laid eggs as well, then what would be left of our Easter celebration?
Easter (along with the significant dates tied to it) is the only holiday of the year with a date that is tied to the seasonal rhythms of the earth. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. But Easter after the fall equinox? It seems so wrong. The truth is, I was tempted to fall prey to a pity party of my own making. No Easter lilies. No bright colors. No anticipation of spring. True, Jesus didn’t just come to save the people of the northern hemisphere, but what about the symbols of the resurrection that tell the story year after year with their rhythms of life, death, and resurrection? Don’t they have significant places in our celebration as well?
Pity party aside. I began to look more closely for symbols of the resurrection among the leaf piles and rain drops. God is so big. Surely the God of all creation has some signs of the resurrection for me (and the 730,000,000 other people) who live on the bottom half of the globe. Baby birds chirping from their nests aren’t the only things that sing the story of Easter.
Lo and behold… I’ve found some—signs of the resurrection in the autumn. Symbols that point to the hope of Jesus even as we are pulled daily towards the wilderness of winter.
Daffodil bulbs. It’s time to plant them. We’re putting them in the ground this week, remembering that Jesus was completely buried. The Romans and the church leaders alike wanted to forget about him much like bulbs lay long-forgotten in the ground. Next spring… sometime around August or September… the daffodils will sprout their heads and bloom, and we will remember that on Good Friday, Jesus was put into the ground, but he didn’t stay there. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
Monarch cocoons. Monarch butterflies love swan plants. We have five small ones planted along our back fence. We’ve been watching the caterpillars literally strip the stem as they gluttonously consume all of the leaves. On Friday, we discovered a couple of new cocoons attached to the bottom of large leaves nearby. Sometime this week—Holy Week— those cocoons will open to reveal big beautiful brand new monarch butterflies. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring.
Hot cross buns. Ahhh… food. It’s so important. We like to feast our celebration, and after 40 long days of Lent, Easter is a feast day above all feast days. During the Easter holiday, the overwhelming majority of kiwis do two things: sneak in one last holiday (vacation) at the beach before winter and eat hot cross buns. It’s true—there is more to hot cross buns than a little ditty for instructing budding musicians. Warm buns filled with spices representing the burial of Jesus and marked with a cross on the top have a long history with many affiliated legends. They were deemed so special by Queen Elizabeth that they could only be made and eaten on Christmas, Good Friday (to break the fast from Lent), and burials. If caught baking the buns any other time, you’d have to give them up. We’ll try our own delectable hot cross buns for the first time this year as we celebrate the resurrection, grateful for a reason to feast and the freedom to feast on whatever we want.
Let leaves fall and cool winds whisper of the coming winter as they may. Creation—the very rhythm of life itself—is still telling the story of the resurrection beautifully, purposefully, rhythmically. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. Summer. Autumn. Winter. Spring. May the hope of Christ be with you this Easter season.
Hamilton Gardens–Indian Char Bagh Garden
The Graham Family
We are the Graham family–Jaron, Elizabeth, the little guy Q. The three of us are on an adventure in faithfulness, currently serving in Hamilton, New Zealand. Being faithful requires much sacrifice and brings great joy. Adventure Graham is the place we chronicle our journey.