Christmas in Fiordland: Our very Kiwi Christmas traditions

There is no snow in sight, ham replaces turkey and Santa generally drops by in shorts, struggling to keep the big red coat on and happy to replace the milk with a cold one.

Kiwi Christmas is very different and tons of fun. Whakata in Fiordland’s Rachel shares what a Christmas in Fiordland looks like.

We get our summer gear out

No snow, mulled wine and soggy feet for us. We celebrate our Christmas (or Kirimehte as it is called in Maori) in true summer style – polishing off boxes of scorched almonds, a ton of sausies and enjoying the sand between our toes. Jandals on, sunnies firmly in place, sunscreen ready and togs handy, it’s a very merry day.

At Whakata in Fiordland, we’re not close to the beach but the family is generally involved in lots of outdoor fun – provided the weather is good. More on this, later in the post…

The flightless bird makes it to the top of a tree

Unlike our countrymen in North Island, who enjoy the glory of our Christmas tree – the pohutukawa tree, in Fiordland we make do with traditional pine. But it’s not without a Kiwi touch. Our national bird, the flightless Kiwi, can be spotted on the top of many Christmas trees, in various decorative guises and often taking the pride of place instead of the traditional fairy.

In many homes even Christmas carols are sung in Maori, like Marie te po or Silent Night. Other original titles include A pukeko in a ponga tree and Sticky beak the Kiwi.

No fuss, delicious food

It is summer so we always have a big Christmas lunch with ham, chicken and salads – no turkey downunder! In most families scorched almonds are a permanent Christmas feature along with a healthy stash of Bluebird chips consumed with the classic Kiwi onion dip. There’s always a family member on pavlova duty and you can rely on an Aunty to get the summer fruit trifle. This – of course – is paired with Tip Top ice cream!

The adults happily replace egg nog with champagne, New Zealand wine, cider and cold beers.

Next comes the backyard fun

Once the worst of the food coma has passed, our family – like most other Kiwi families – hits the backyard for some cricket or rugby. That’s before we enjoy a full blown water balloon fight that involves everyone, from granddad to the babies. It’s a great way to digest the food we eat on this day! Some families even set up waterslides, and there is always that one guy who sprays everyone with the hose. Welcome to Christmas in Fiordland, true Kiwi style – we told you it is fun!

The festivities continue well into the night

Lunch leftovers come out is creative forms at dinner as the celebration continues. At Whakata in Fiordland we will have a family staying with us this year. We’ll be sure to get them a gift and invite them to share our family traditions. After all, it is the season to share the joy. Hopefully with the kids tucked in bed and the daylight by our side (it is light till past 10pm at this time of the year!), we can all enjoy a few nightcaps and reflect on the year! If the weather gods are kind on us, we’ll even finish off the day with a nice tan.

Merry Kirimehte!