I didn't realise it as a kid, but Christmas in New Zealand really is a schizophrenic experience.
On one hand you have sun-filled days spent at the beach, you eat bbqs + salads and you're tucked into bed long before the sun goes down at 10pm. But then the next minute you receive a Christmas card with a smiling snowman and you're spraying 'fake snow' on the tree. Luckily hiding within our confused Christmas identity, there are a few traditions more suited to our geographic location.
One such tradition is berry-picking season.
For this family outing (of epic and excitable proportions), we would drive north to Otaki on the west coast of New Zealand, 1.5 hours north of Wellington. We would arrive wearing dark-coloured berry resistant clothing ready to explore the endless rows of blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
As a kid it was a wonderful maze of hidden juicy treasures, where finding a tennis ball sized strawberry or a siamese raspberry was in the realm of possibility.
Forget perfectly formed, glossy supermarket fruit monotony. This was a place where you had to brave blackberry prickles and check for bugs before jamming nature's most delicious sweets in your mouth. The normal ratio I worked to was ... one for me... one for the bucket. Warnings from Mum, that eating too much fruit would give you the runs always fell on deaf little ears and after half an hour we all wore clown-like red grins from the berry stain.
Eating the berries always felt terribly naughty as we knew we weren't really supposed to, the purpose was to collect the best ones for the Christmas table. One year, as we got to the counter to pay and placed our containers on the scales, the owner, with a grave face, said:
"This year we've installed human scales at the door, so we weigh you on the way in, and now on the way out."
We looked in shock to Mum, surely not!? 3 hours and 3 little berry-filled bellies later, we would be weighed again and have to pay the difference? She shook her head and said, well I hope you bought your pocket money. Our shocked and panicked faces ended the rouse as the owner and mum burst out laughing and explained there were no human scales on the door and our hard earned pocket money was safe.
On Christmas day, we proudly placed our berries on the table to be shared with the extended family, pointing out the treasures of our hunt to a seemingly impressed grandmother and telling the human scales story to a wide-eyed cousin.
I think that's the secret to Christmas traditions, the more fantastical the story the better.
Never once as a child did I question that we didn't have a chimney that fat santa could shimmy down, because the true magic of Christmas is just that, magic.
This year I'm in my new home (for now), Santiago, Chile for Christmas. I've only been here 3 days but have had an invite from the lovely globetrottergirls.com to have a picnic in the park.
What special traditions do you have in your family? And how will you be spending Christmas this year? Feel free to share your Christmas stories or greetings below...
Much love, Indiana June xx