Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.
Being on the other side of the world made it impossible for us to travel back home for the holidays, therefore, we decided to celebrate the season with our new friends in the South Island of New Zealand. Hear from our own colleagues about our special Kiwi Christmas…
Taylor: “It is Summer here in New Zealand which means sunshine and warm weather. I honestly never realized just how much I associated Christmas with cold weather until I spent it in shorts and sandals. Leading up to the holidays, all I wanted was to be home for Christmas. Little did I know that this year would become one of the most memorable Christmases that I’ve had. Christmas eve was a night full of exposure to new experiences. Hours were spent in the kitchen as our host family taught us how to cook Sarmale, a traditional Romanian dish that they do together as a family every year. The Dupus and the Abante team spent Christmas eve together as one big family gathered around the table to eat traditional foods from different places around the world. There was love, laughter, and my personal favorite- Pavlova, a delicious kiwi desert which was lit with candles as we sang happy birthday to Jesus. On Christmas day, something that was really special to me was what took place before any presents were opened. Our leader Brian opened up by reading the Christmas story- the written account of Jesus Christ’s birth. Following was a time of prayer together. I found my heart completely set on the true reason for the season. While Christmas eve was filled with new traditions, I did get a little taste of home on Christmas day as our leader Beba, as well as Sydney, and I spent the morning cooking a big southern breakfast for everyone. We then spent the afternoon with a sweet family and new friends that invited us to spend Christmas the Kiwi way- on a picnic by a lake! Something that I have found interesting about Christmas in New Zealand is the inclusiveness of families and friends. The island is filled with immigrants and some of the people that we’ve met have come here all on their own. Without any biological family around, Christmas can soon get lonely, but the Kiwis do a great job of making friends feel like family- especially around the holidays. Even as someone whose biological family is on the other side of the world, I felt surrounded by love on Christmas because of the friends that I was with. Although a piece of my heart was in Georgia this Christmas, I wouldn’t have traded being here. I love that I was able to experience Christmas in a new light. I will forever cherish my first Kiwi Christmas.”
Sydney: “The way that Christmas is celebrated in New Zealand was different from my family’s traditions. Typically, in America, we would celebrate Christmas with our family and it would be a special time visiting our close relatives; however here in New Zealand a lot of the people that we have met are families and individuals who don’t have any of their close relatives nearby. Something that made this year unique and special to me was the fact that not one of the people that I spent Christmas with were related to me, but they all made me feel like family. We were included in several Christmas traditions that make those who have moved to New Zealand, or who are visiting during the holidays feel a little more “at home” to whatever country they may belong to. We made Romanian dishes that are a tradition of our host dad and his cultural background. We had Christmas cookies that were a tradition of our host mom and her cultural background. We made an American style breakfast with our Abante family to include a little bit of our cultural background. We went swimming, and later went on a dinner picnic at the lake with some of our Kiwi friends. This is a tradition of the Kiwi Culture, because of the warm summer climate during Christmas time. The next day, we had a Hangi, which is a Maori traditional meal for large celebrations. And all of these small traditions that make Christmas feel like Christmas for the Kiwis were what made this year’s celebration so special to me. I felt like I was included in something that created an atmosphere of being “at home” for each individual that looked different. It showed me that no matter where I am in the world, what really makes my traditions matter are the people that I invite in to share them with. It was one of my most memorable Christmases with friends that feel like family.”
The truth is, no matter where you are, you can make it home by giving more of yourself and by exercising human kindness and a good cheerful spirit. This is truly a good season for remembrance of the greatest gift given to humanity, and also a reminder that God is still with us today, in the midst of our celebrations, gatherings, or simply when we are on our own reflecting on his goodness.