Kiwi Christmas

Merry Kiwi Christmas!

Christmas is an important time of year worldwide for billions of people. I’m not a religious person, but Christmas remains very important to me. It’s one of the wonderful times of year that my whole family makes time to be together.¬† This was the first time I’d ever spent a Christmas away from my family, and it was an interesting experience. It would have been nice to be home with my family, but the feeling was not enough to trigger a serious case of homesickness.

Actually, I’ve not once been homesick since the beginning of my trip on September 13th. Little moments come and go, but at the end of the day, I’m glad to be where I am. The things I am doing here in New Zealand keep me happy and excited, both for the present and the future.

My first Kiwi Christmas was amazing, and the electric atmosphere that I’m a part of kept me from becoming homesick. If anyone was to expect me to get homesick, Christmas would be the time. It’s one of the most family-oriented days of the year, and here I am on the other side of the world all alone.

And yet I’m not alone.

I’m surrounded by a host of people that have done the same thing. They’ve left their homes and families behind to explore the world, make new friends, and experience as much as they can of what life has to offer. If you can count on people to do one thing, it’s come together to form a community. Humans have a knack for taking any old place and turning it into a home. That’s what many people find in Raglan, the place in New Zealand where I spent my first Christmas away. For newcomers to Raglan, the story often goes the same: come for a few days, stay for a few weeks. Some people don’t ever leave. Me? I’ve been here almost 3 months. My initial plan was a 10-day stay. There’s something about Raglan that’s magnetic – people just don’t want to leave.

Kiwi Christmas starts in the sun.

Christmas in New Zealand feels less like Christmas and more like American Independence Day. People of all ages flock to the beach to surf and soak up the sun. For those of us staying at the Green Wave Surf House, we were down the beach at 10:15 gearing up for a surf lesson. I’ve been at Green Wave for almost 3 months now, helping out with whatever needs to be done. Sometimes I help teach the surf lesson, but today they didn’t need my help. There were some new hardtop boards, and the waves were perfect. Taking out that new board into those beautiful waves was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for. Especially since the weather leading up to Christmas had been awful, with a poor swell and loads of onshore wind.

Kiwi Christmas
This picture is from earlier in December… so imagine bigger waves and a PACKED beach and you’ll understand what Kiwi Christmas looks like.

The holiday continued once we got home. It was only the early afternoon, but everyone was cracking open some cold ones to enjoy before our late lunch together. It seemed like every single person in the house was on FaceTime simultaneously, wishing loved ones a Merry (cold) Christmas Eve while we enjoyed our sunny Christmas Day. It’s funny to live in the future. New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of my home time zone on the East Coast of the USA.

After my family FaceTime, I was put on grill duty. The main course for dinner was a roast ham, so I wasn’t the main event, but that’s ok. I can begrudgingly share the spotlight…

Only joking, of course – I’m no Scrooge.

I was just in charge of the corn and the chicken drumsticks in case people were still hungry after all the ham. I’m still working on adding drummies to my grill repertoire, but they turned out well enough to receive a few compliments. Speaking of grilling, it’s been WAY too long since I’ve had steak. But that’s completely off-topic…

After some close-quarters frisbee throwing, many beers, and the mother-of-all cheese boards, we sat everyone down for a big Christmas lunch out in the garden under the sun.

Conquer Fear Kiwi Christmas
My most diverse Christmas to date – with representatives from the USA (3), UK (2), Switzerland (1), Germany (9), Netherlands (1), Poland (1), Canada (2), and Finland (2).

Our big mixed crowd included the Green Wave team, Green Wave guests, and some friends and family of the house. Our Kiwi Christmas together was a celebration done right. We had cold drinks, good food, and great laughs. I didn’t think I could have eaten anything more. Then someone put a plate of extra ham in front of me. After that I was sure that I was absolutely stuffed. That lasted until the girls brought out some delicious dessert topped with homemade ice cream.

That’s just not something you say no to.

We capped off the night by throwing National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on the television in the lounge, and the food took its toll. Most people fell asleep midway through, surely from a combination of a full-day of drinking beers and bubbly-wine, and a belly full of food.

Kiwi Christmas was different from the regular Christmas I grew up with. It was warm, sunny, and I spent it surrounded by people I hadn’t known for very long. But there was still the familiar feeling of people coming together to celebrate the good things in life.

Each day is what you make it, and that never changes, whether it’s a birthday, a dreaded Monday, or a Kiwi Christmas.

You might as well do your best to make it great.

So – Merry Christmas from New Zealand. I hope you enjoy your holiday season with the people that mean the most to you.

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