Country Road Christmas

What does Christmas mean to you?

Christmas for us isn’t stressful or fancy. It’s a very relaxed day where we don’t venture far from home. We are lucky enough to live on the coast so our day will definitely include some time in the water whether it’s for a surf or a few ‘manus’ (kiwi word for water bombs) off the local jetty! Christmas is all about celebrating our family and friends. We graze throughout the day on really good, fresh food and just enjoy the sunshine.

What has been your most treasured Christmas memory?

As a child my bedroom used to look across to our living room where I could see the Christmas trees lights gently flashing on and off. I used to love falling asleep watching those lights flicker and the smell of Crabtree and Evelyns ‘Noel’ fragrance oil burning. In New Zealand it doesn’t get dark til around 9.30pm and when I was little I used to love lying in bed listening to everyone mow their lawns on Christmas Eve getting their gardens ready. I love being a parent now and having the opportunity to create new traditions and memories for our family. 

How will you be spending the day this year?

No doubt it will be a very early start with three extremely excited children. My eldest is 8 and I cannot help but feel this may be his last year as a “believer” so it will be extra special. I love that Christmas celebrates the joy of imagination. This year we will have a casual breakfast at home (which in my case will be a box of scorched almonds) with the kids and our parents will join us. We will then head to the beach and then up to our parents for a swim and more food! This year I have got berries growing in my vegetable garden so my daughter will enjoy picking them for the Pavlova later in the day!

How will you be spending the summer?

We are lucky enough to go away every summer. Last year we drove up to the North Island and had Christmas in the Coromandel which was an amazing experience. This year we have a house in Wainui Bay in the Abel Tasman National Park. We will then spend some time in Kaiteriteri Beach and Tahunanui Beach with family. The Tasman region (top of the South Island) is the perfect place for summer holidays with its beautiful beaches, native forests, rivers, lakes and amazingly fresh produce.

Can you talk about the Pōhutukawa tree and it’s relevance?

The Pōhutukawa Tree is known as the “Kiwi Christmas Tree” and it flowers in the month of December. They are scattered throughout New Zealand but are more prominent up North. Maori mythology tells the legend of the young warrior, Tawhaki and his attempt to help find heaven to avenge his father’s death. He subsequently fell to earth and the red flowers are said to represent his blood. 

Two years ago, which was our first Christmas back in NZ (after living in Sydney for 15 years) my Mother in law bought my eldest his very own Pōhutukawa tree for our garden and it has brought so much joy to us watching it grow.

Can you talk about any other New Zealand Christmas traditions?

Like our Australian neighbours we are all about relaxed celebrations in the sun. Jandals, pavlovas, BBQs, the renowned kiwi onion dip, backyard cricket, tip top ice-cream, scorched almonds and roses chocolates are usually key traditions for many kiwi families.

Mark Townshend