Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Merry Kiwi Christmas

As I mentioned in my last post, Christmas here is a litle different than at home. It still doesn't feel like Christmas to me because 70 degree weather and talk of barbecues on the beach just don't align with the snow, ugly sweaters, and roast dinners (or Indian food) that are part of my holiday frame of reference. Still, the Kiwis have very much adoped the British holiday traditions (BTW, figgy pudding does not look at all like the picture I had in my head), while definitely making it their own. Below, a small taste of how Auckland celebrates:

Despite my general disdain for most of the decorating decisions on Franklin Road, there were a few I thought were cute--and very Kiwi.

Even the Sky Tower got in on the action:

On Queen Street, in the heart of Auckland's central business district, you can't miss this gigantic, totally creepy Santa statue. Seeing him in person is even more disturbing because during the day he is rigged to wink and make a "come here" motion with his finger. At night when he is not moving, his eyelid has usually stopped in a frightening half-closed position that makes him look like he is on heavy drugs.

New Zealand has its own "Chrismas tree," the pohutukawa. It earned its nickname because it blooms beautiful red flowers at Christmastime. The city is covered with them. Again, it's hard to feel Christmasy in the middle of springtime flowers (the freesia, birds of paradise, and heaps of others are in full bloom as well), but it's a nice change from gray skies and leafless trees.

Here, the pohutakawa in use (okay, actually it's bottlebrush, but it's still red and pretty) as my team's entry in our office Christmas tree decorating competition. I'm not sure how we lost because ours was totally the best. However, I'll concede that it's a little easier for us, Maori Health, to represent our directorate in tree form than for, say, Disability Services. I'd say the National Screening Program deserved their second place prize; it must have required some serious creativity to design their (slightly creepy) tree covered in pictures of breastfeeding babies. Anyway, in case you didn't figure it out, "Meri Kirihimete" means"Merry Christmas" in Te Reo Maori.

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