I’ve been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. My weekends aren’t full of party-hopping, it’s 25 degrees out, I’m not wearing a tacky Christmas shirt/sweater at any opportunity…it’s just not feeling like the magic season it normally is. I was down in the Viaduct the other night and saw a massive advent calendar and this amazing light-up Christmas tree…but it seemed all very “oh shit I guess we should put something up”.
A few weird (to me) things about Christmas here:
1- People don’t have Christmas parties. Like, the odd one here or there…but weekends aren’t full of RSVPs and running from one party to the next. When I asked my colleagues if they’d be busy with Christmas parties this weekend, I got a blank stare. “Like, a work party?” they said. When I explained to them the concept of friends throwing a party and inviting people to come over, it was like I was telling them Canadians celebrate Christmas by swimming in maple syrup or something.
2- Those classic Christmas specials we all know and love? Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown*…they don’t play them here. “Love Actually” was on TV the other week, but that’s pretty much the most I’ve seen. My flatmate told me it’s because those specials are pretty American and they don’t have the same Americanized culture over here….which makes sense to a certain point, I suppose.
3- Hardly any decorations up on houses (in North America, most people put lights up on their houses. Hell, I put them up on my second floor apartment!). The radio station plays maybe one Christmas song every few hours (and it’s always Feliz Navidad, which I think is because songs about snow just don’t fit in here). I’m not getting green and red shoved in my face every two minutes. I haven’t seen candy canes.
4- Christmas is more about “spending time with family” than “omg presents”. lol New Zealand is crazy.
All these, combined with the aforementioned lack of cold and snow, really don’t make it feel like Christmas. Kiwis are a really chill people and don’t get excited about much aside from Shortland Street and a new KFC special, and Christmas isn’t quite as commercialized and Americanized as it is back home…there’s just not a buzz in the air.
There is, however, one massive Christmassy thing that Auckland does really well! The Franklin Road lights.
Like I said, people don’t decorate their houses here. Like, one or two in a neighbourhood maybe, but it’s not like every second palm tree is swathed in lights…which is weird, because Kiwis love fancy dress parties and I thought they’d really enjoy dressing their houses up.
Franklin Road, though, decorates. Decorates like mad.
Each December this one small street in Ponsonby throws hundreds of lights up on their houses, each neighbour trying to outdo the other. Not all the decorations are super impressive, but every single house on the street does it…which, in dark and unchristmassy Auckland, really looks fantastic!
The best part, though, is that EVERYONE in the city knows about Franklin Rd and EVERYONE in the city goes to check out the lights. We were there last Thursday and there must have been 500 people crowding the sidewalks to look at the lights. Some houses had musicians and choirs outside the front, others had music playing from a sound system…there was even this German (??) group going around singing, playing instruments, and hitting each other with sticks? I’m going to assume it was a cultural thing.
My trip to Franklin Rd really made things feel Christmassy. The whole community was out, couples were cuddling in front of plastic Santas, kids were laughing, old people were saying things like “oh well isn’t that just lovely”…it was great.
Plus, I’ve always wanted to see Santa in rugby shorts. Yes.
*I hate the Charlie Brown xmas special. It’s so fucking depressing.