Christmas has taken my mind. It’s been replaced by a mince pie, a plate of bbq food and an afternoon nap. I’ve given up trying to rationalise and justify to myself why it’s ok that I eat poorly, drink more and exercise less. The great Christmas/New Years/Summer Holiday ‘silly season’ is upon us.
From mid-December to mid-January, life in New Zealand slows down as we all revel in our one month of holidays and merriment, before returning to another 11 months of the real world. Forget binge drinking, it’s binge revelry. All year, we ardently abstain from major national festivities or holiday periods, and save it all up for the one month when anything goes, and we’re left with a year’s worth of liver/wallet and waistline damage.
I read a column recently in which the writer suggested that we in the Southern Hemisphere should move Christmas to 1st July. He put forward a very rational case. We would work right up until New Year’s Eve, have some drinking and merriment for that, frolic on the beaches and what not, then people would be free to take their annual holidays January through to March. We’d return to the work-place for the next six month, and come mid-June, when the temperature drops and the days are short, we’d look forward to the July Christmas with anticipation. It’s a fantastic and extremely logical idea. We’d all rather add our festive season weight gain to our winter pudge, and hide it all under layers than have to face up to the damage of all those scorched almonds in the harsh glare of the summer sun. Lardyness and indulgence aside, the best part of the suggestion, in my mind, is the idea of a winter festival. We, madly, slog through months of shorter days and frosts, sometimes snow, without the fairy lights, the warming mulled drinks, the singing and joviality with is designed specifically to buoy our spirits during these bleak months. The best we can do is look at the calendar and gloomy sigh, ‘Only 6 more month until we can get out the Christmas lights, and prepare a roast on a warm summer’s day. Thank god.’
I think the suggestion of changing the day of Christmas holds great promise, yet it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Although the 25th of December is the arbitrary date chosen to represent Jesus’ birthday, no doubt shifting this date to another seemingly more arbitrary date wouldn’t go down well with those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. For many, Christmas in New Zealand is more about family and food, than Jesus. These people too may struggle with such a dramatic shift. In the way that we have illogically hung on to having the hot turkey, and the many desserts that involving raisins (Christmas cake, pudding, mince pies) there is an unspoken acknowledgement that we know our Christmas traditions are transplanted, but are important none the less. We have taken an English Christmas, and added weather appropriate aspects. These ‘Kiwisms’ that have become an important part of Christmas that would be redundant should the date be moved. What would become of the Pavlova for Christmas lunch, the Boxing Day BBQ, or the mass exodus for the island’s beaches, if Christmas moved to July?
We are wedded to these traditions not because they are steeped in religious or historical meaning, or in any way practical, but simply because they are what we do. Do something enough, embed it with meaning and it becomes a tradition for those who are involved with it. Summer Christmas is unique to those in the Southern Hemisphere. The uniqueness of a Kiwi Christmas would be lost if it was moved to winter. There seems to be one solution: two Christmases. Christmas Lite in summer, with all the best bits of a summer Santa fest, but without some of the stodge, and Christmas II in July, because who doesn’t want another excuse to roll out the twinkly lights, the good food and the general feeling of shameless indulgence .