My Kiwi Christmas!
Christmas is up in the air. We have a committed host family on Waiheki Island through December 24th, but because they are shutting down their catering business over the holidays, we have no place to go until Dec. 29th. That’s the day we are scheduled to fly to Sydney, Australia. What to do?? All Len and I want for Christmas is to experience a Kiwi Christmas, and, as it turns out…we get our wish! We are invited to stay through Christmas at the Clansman Motel!
My Kiwi Christmas is the most joyful Christmas ever in my life!
Not only do we (Belinda and her two kids, Sophia (8) and Kayden (6), Brandon, Len and I) become friends over the five weeks we stay there, we become a family. We work together and we play together.
And lucky us! We even have an extended family! Gwen and her family: her husband and their five kids ages 10 – 22, are included in our holiday and family celebrations.
The sights...the sounds...the smells of a Kiwi Christmas…
One December afternoon, Elijah (18) and India (15), next-door neighbors of the Clansman, show up with a live pine tree, flooding the atrium with the scent of pine. (Apparently their parents raise pine trees and donated this one for the holiday season.)
What a flurry of activity! Everyone gets in on the act. Len secures the tree in standing position, making sure it has plenty of water. Brandon and Elijah dig into closets and cupboards bringing out tons of Christmas decorations. Sophie and Kayden hang pretty baubles at will (as kids are wont to do!), Belinda gives the kids’ tree trimmings a skeptical eye (as mothers are wont to do!), but says nothing. I take pictures. Perfect!! We all clap while Kayden does his dance and chants, “Santa Claus is coming, O yeah! Santa Claus is coming, O yeah!…” you know how it goes.
Waipu Primary Prizegiving Program
It’s December. In the USA, kids are getting ready for Winter Break whereas in New Zealand, the Land Down Under, kids are getting ready for summer vacation. One of the traditions (as in the USA) is end-of-the-year prizegiving or student achievement awards. Belinda invites me me to attend the Waipu Primary School Prizegiving. When we arrive, the Bream Bay College Auditorium is packed to capacity with excited grandparents, parents, siblings and friends. Lots of bustling around and happy chitchat.
And what a show! Waipu Primary School is multicultural with emphasis on both Caucasian and Maori cultures, so, of course, the program includes traditional Maori songs and dances.
My favorite dance presentation is Tihei Mauri Ora (the sneeze of life), which is danced/sung beautifully by girls from both cultures. They dress in their school colors of black and turquoise. Faith (Gwen’s daughter, age 10) and her classmates look stunning tip to toe! Their ensemble includes ankle-length black dresses accented with turquoise ribbons around their waists, and it’s topped off with turquoise feathers in their hair.
But what really gets my attention, (and what I wouldn’t see in the USA at a Christmas-themed program), is the stage filled with little boys, naked to the waist, wearing knee-length native skirts! Their performance is called Kapa Haka group. Apparently it’s a ritualistic dance/song “associated with hand-to-hand combat practice by Maori in pre-colonial times.” And you know what that means! A goddam raucous good time, that’s what it means! Painted faces…thunderous stomping feet…loud ferocious singing/chanting…and wildly gesticulating arms! Man alive! I just want to jump on the stage and join the fray!
Needless to sat, the actual achievement presentations are but a postscript!
December 232rd…Belinda takes me Midnight Shopping for the kids’ Christmas presents! I drive the cart and Belinda fills it!
December 24th…Waipu’s annual Christmas Eve Parade which passes right in front of the Clansman on Cove Road! My favorite float is the Waipu Primary School decked-out trailer. The kids sing and dance to “Greased Lightning.” Dine-O-mite!
December 24th…We elves are busily doing our Midnight Wrapping in Mrs. Claus’s workshop…Shhhh….
Favorite Memories of Christmas Morning…
Happy voices greeting each other with, “Merry Christmas!”
Watching Len play Leap Frog, his new game (a lot like Tidally Winks)
Seeing Brandon’s bewildered face when he opens his vintage Buzzy Bee toy, a lost toy (up to now) he loved!
The sound of rain (like the sound of a rain stick) emanating from a long narrow box when Brandon passes the box to Len. This is a very curious Christmas present, and as it turns out, it contains two cowboy hats (one for me and one for Len) since we are going to Australia next. The sound is made by cascading beer bottle caps! Who would’ve thought!
Thanks Brandon and Belinda!
The sound of r-r-r-ripping paper as the kids open their presents!
Not believing my ears when Brandon hands me a present and says, “And this is from Jamie!” Surprise! Len asked my daughter Jamie to send me a gift all the way from Idaho and it arrived on time!! Of course I cry.
There is a most awesome gazebo on the Clansman premises, which, when you step inside, becomes a banquet hall. This hall contains a table made from a seamless slab of Kauri at least 20 feet long by 4 feet wide. Gwen remembers when the slab was delivered and how a crane lifted it off the truck to the ground. Kauri is the most famous of New Zealand’s trees, a very dear commodity. The only other time Len and I saw this size of Kauri was at the Kauri Museum (where I bought a 12 inch Kauri spoon for 22 NZ$).
Brandon sweeps the premises, shines up the table, rearranges the bench seats, strings lights throughout the hall, and now he sets the table in preparation for our Christmas dinner. Gwen and her family arrive. All in all there are 14 of us in attendance.
Once seated, dinner is served. It is a noble feast indeed! There are three kinds of meat: lamb, pork and chicken, along with roasted potatoes, a sumptuous salad (I made it!), deep-fried pork rinds, garlic bread and a carved-out circle of bread filled with spinach dip. We toast one another with sparkling wine (soda for the kids) , eat, chat and enjoy the warm evening by candlelight!