This is me, just shy of one-year-old, enjoying my very first Xmas with my cuzzies, Awwwwwww!
My birthday is the end of December, so I just missed out on all the festive fun the year before, but as you can see I made the very most of it the following year. Damn, that ceiling was interesting – artex swirls, if I remember correctly.
We had a very particular routine for Chrissy – we alternated between our house, my grandparents and my Aunty’s. Each morning we woke to our Santa sacks at the bottom of the bed, then after lunch we would sit down to open all the other pressies under the trees.
But it was never a free-for-all. Oh no. There was a tradition to be upheld. One of the children would pass out the pressies until we each had a little pile sitting temptingly in front of us. The eldest person (my granddad) would open a gift of his choosing, and we’d all ooh and aah, and only then could the next eldest make their first choice. And so on it went, until the youngest child, my sister Kirsten.
Waiting your turn was agonising, especially when someone would deliberately take their sweet time opening their pressie (yes, I’m looking at you, cousin Bronny), but it was also delicious, as the anticipation was half the fun.
Afterwards we’d play outside with our new toys, or sunbathe, or maybe even have a BBQ on the beach, because that’s how we roll, Xmas-style, in the SH (that’s southern hemisphere, for all you NH’ers).
Of course Santa switched it up too to suit the warmer climes. Over the years I witnessed him reporting for duty in a helicopter, a motorboat, a jetski and a flat-deck truck, often while wearing shorts, shades and sipping a tinny of beer.
Mum always insisted on a real Christmas tree, but one of the first things I noticed when I moved here was that the trees were completely different – at home we used radiata pines which are spindly, with long dark green needles, and the most delicious smell. Brits tend to use (correct me if I’m wrong) fir or spruce trees, which are bushier and have shorter, coarser needles. I don’t think they smell as good either. Sorry.
Although I concede I might be remembering New Zealand trees better than they actually were, as this photo – taken in my camera-avoiding years hence darting out of shot – demonstrates…
OK, it’s not going to win any awards for beauty, but it still smelled amazing.
I’ve carried lots of our childhood traditions over to modern-day Xmas – the girls get their pile of parcels, and taken turns to open them. Not only does it make the opening stage last a bit longer, but it means we can see and enjoy the girls’ reactions to each present – otherwise it’s just a frenzy of wrapper tearing, over in 30 seconds.
I still insist on some of Mum’s staple festive dishes – pavlova, berry fruit salad and brandy snaps with whipped cream.
And every year, without fail, we play SNOOPY’S CHRISTMAS, which is New Zealand’s unofficial Xmas anthem. I have no idea why someone thought it was a good idea to release a song about plane-flying cartoon dog fighting the Germans (random much?!) but us Kiwis lapped it up, and it hit number one in the charts in 1967. To this day it’s on constant rotation during the festive season, and even re-entered the charts in 2013. Yep.
So what are your favourite Christmas memories?
• Littlewoods asked me to recall my favourite Xmas traditions for their #MakeTheirChristmas campaign