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Despite my travels, I almost always have Christmas at home with my family. I’ve had the odd Christmas abroad – in England, Egypt and Thailand but none were much of a celebration. To me Christmas definitely only feels like Christmas when it’s celebrated at home with my Mum and sisters.

What does Christmas look like in New Zealand?

Reuben’s First Christmas & Our Tiny Fibre-Optic Tree

Our Christmas Table

A Kiwi Christmas Dinner

An Italtian blogger friend recently asked me “What does Christmas look like in your house?” for a writing project she is participating in with fellow Italian bloggers. Here in New Zealand we have Christmas in the Summertime. It seems silly to go for over-the-top decorations because it doesn’t feel right to have snowmen, reindeer and pine trees when the weather is hot and the sky is sunny. No point putting up Christmas lights and decorations outside when it doesn’t get dark until 10pm during December. Instead we usually just go for a little fibre-optic light up tree just to have something to put a few presents under. We’re increasingly moving away from traditional gifts in favour of more location independent presents like Kindle books but you can’t help but buy a few things for Reuben to unwrap on Christmas day.

I like us to spend a few hours together on Christmas morning, just the three of us before we head to my Mum’s house for in the early afternoon for a meal with our family. We open gifts together and then eat a late lunch. We decorate the Christmas table with fresh flowers, a few Christmas decorations and bowls of cherries (which are in season at this time of the year and my absolute favourite fruit). If it’s a nice day we carry the dining table outside and dine al fresco. We don’t eat a big traditional turkey or ham – that’s too heavy to eat in warm weather. Our family usually opts for fresh salmon, lamb and lots of vegies. Lee, being English, always insists on their being a traditional sherry-soaked trifle for dessert.


What does Christmas look like for the travelling family?

Given that we don’t always intend to live in Christchurch or make it back for Christmas every year, I thought I’d pose the same question to some of travelling family friends. Just as no two families are the same, they all do something wildly different for Christmas.

Christmas for I Viaggi dei Rospi

“Christmas in Italy is celebrated almost the same way as in the majority of the European countries. The family gathers together in the evening of the 24th December and has a huge fish dinner. My kids memories made Christmas unique: as we finished dinner, my parents hide me in my room while grandpas and aunties prepared the Santa Claus set in the living room and we opened the presents all together. It was fabulous! A really magic night! I was terribly excited and couldn’t wait for the Christmas eve. Hidden in my room, listening the Santa’s bell ringing to the other side of the room and imagining him delivering all the presents for all the family. They were really good in preparing everything and in creating the atmosphere…so good that I still believe in the big red man living in Lapland and driving the sleight all over the world!” – Alex at I Viaggi dei Rospi (The Travels of Toads)


Christmas for Wandering Educators

“Christmas is a time for our family to gather. We come from all around the world to my parents’ house, which is an 1800s Victorian farmhouse, with huge rooms, very high ceilings, and plenty of room for everyone to spread out. The house is decorated to the hilt, with not one, but TWO Christmas trees – one decorated with antique bubble lights, handmade ornaments, handblown glass, fanciful ornaments (fireman, mermaid, grapes!), and heirlooms and the other with my mom’s snowman collection (well, some of them), and has one of my dad’s small train tracks running around underneath. For days, we cook together, feast, play games, dance, drink lots of coffee, have long conversations that aren’t really possible during the time apart, open presents, take walks on the snowy country roads, build snowmen and throw snowballs, sing carols around the piano, laugh, and catch up on the last year. For, you see, we are very far-flung, and this is a chance for us to re-connect. Each year, everyone makes an effort to come there – saving money (or miles), and booking flights even in the summer; driving from within the midwest – all to make sure everyone can be there. It’s a sense of belonging, knowing that no matter where we are in the world, THIS is the place we all call home.” – Jessie at Wandering Educators


Christmas for The Edventure Project

“Christmas on the road is always an adventure and never the same twice. The year we were in Tunisia, we camped Christmas Eve on the Sahara Desert and FROZE, listened to Bedouin drumming in the darkness and celebrated with candy canes and a came ride on Christmas day. Grandparents from Canada were with us. In Guatemala we had 10 guests, mostly backpackers and I sewed stockings out of local huipile fabric and stuffed them with surprises I’d arranged ahead of time from their families around the world. Our tree was made of paper and we popped a pinata in the garden before going cliff jumping Christmas afternoon. Hannah celebrated by breaking her foot on the way down. The year we’ll be celebrating on the Malaysian coast of Borneo. We won’t have family with us, but we’ll find ways to make the holiday sparkle for one another. For us, it’s less about what’s in the stockings than it is about who we’re with and where we are when we celebrate. Instead of buying more things, we make more memories!” – Jennifer at The Edventure Project


Christmas for Bohemian Travelers

 “Christmas for us has really changed over the last decade.  6 years ago we approached Christmas with a consumer driven mindset, desiring to give the boys what ever they wanted.  Now we see that birthdays and holidays like Christmas can be made even more delightful in all of our souls by focusing on experiences over “things”!  Teaching children, by spending loads of money on numerous gifts, to focus on things that they want rather then experiences and connections to loved ones seems so wrong in hindsight.  We typically open 1 small gift for fun and then decide as a family on a special outing that we usually would not take part in either because of cost or some other reason.  We have found that when we focus on spending time together and building mutually enjoyable experiences it is those memories that we remember most, far more special then a broken toy 6 months later. The pic is my 9 year old on Christmas day.  The elephants was such a beautiful part of the day and certainly something most people never experience.  He told me later in the day that “this was the best Christmas ever!” – Mary at Bohemian Travelers. Read how Mary spent her Christmas last year living a simpler life.


Where are you spending Christmas? How do you choose to celebrate Christmas when you’re at home? How is it different when you’re on the road?


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Showing 6 comments
  • Alex

    So proud to be in your site!!! Thanks Beth for our brillant cooperation!!

    • Bethaney

      Grazie per avermi invitato a partecipare Alex!

  • Living Outside of the Box

    What fun! Thanks for highlighting all of these bloggers…it’s fun to see what different traditions people are creating (even if those are “new” traditions each year)!! Christmas is about so much more than the gifts!

    • Bethaney

      I agree. I’m going to try and make any gifts I give my family this year. It’s fun to invent new traditions for your family.

  • Lisa wood

    it was so good to read how other families spend their xmas together, and with friends/family!
    This Christmas we have no idea where we are going to be, nor do we have any idea on what we are going to be doing!
    I like that its something that we have not planned ahead, and something that we can spend together as a family – creating memories. This year it wont be about giving gifts as such, but about experiences for us.

    • Bethaney

      Nice idea! I’d like to be a bit more spontaneous and unplanned. I agree that Christmas should be more about enjoying an experience together than plying each other with meaningless presents.

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