A South Island Christmas

What does the holiday season in New Zealand look like? Summer breezes blowing along the peninsula. Long evenings under pastel skies. Lingering sunsets painting the skies past 9 p.m. Skin bare and basking in the warmth of the sun. Rosé taking the place of my favorite pinot noir. And for me, the busiest time at work. Ah, tourism.

For those of us from the upper northern hemisphere, these beautiful things are not synonymous with Christmas. My childhood Decembers in Idaho were spent on snowy slopes and frozen lakes, ice skating and sledding and falling on my butt over and over while trying to learn how to snowboard. We made snowmen and drank hot chocolate and piled on layers and layers of down and wool. I wore my favorite snow boots and my teddy bear snowsuit.

Christmas in Idaho

But I'm not in the northern hemisphere this year, so this means that rosé and late sunsets and summer dresses are part of the Christmas season (if I still had that teddy bear jumpsuit, though, I'd still be wearing it). Although it will be another Christmas away from home, I am excited to celebrate my second Christmas in the southern hemisphere. Three years ago I was in South Africa, staying in the small coastal community of Chintsa for the holiday. I spent Christmas morning running on the beach in shorts and a tank, afterwards taking part in a long Christmas luncheon outside on the deck of a friend's house with her wonderful family. The last two years I've had a Maui Christmas, working either a Christmas morning snorkel tour or a long day of whale watches and spending the day with Hawaiian green sea turtles and my favorite humpback whales. While I loved those December 25ths and appreciated the opportunity to bask under the Hawaiian sun on top of crystal clear blue waters, this year I'm excited to enjoy Christmas day off with some new friends.

Christmas on Maui

Here in Kaikoura, we're anticipating a busy holiday season. Just last week, a very important road closure was lifted and Kaikoura is no longer a dead-end destination! There has been some major road work taking place this past year after the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake, and one of the major inlets to this small town (SH1 to the north) was closed completely for 13 months. That is no more, however, and we're expecting an influx of locals and visitors alike to flood into this beautiful place. 

I remember reading an article a year ago about Kaikoura being one of the best places in the world to spend Christmas. 

But the appeal of warming up over the holidays is undeniable, too. For the die-hard contrarian, Kaikoura, New Zealand, ought to do the trick. It’s the height of summer there at Christmas, a holiday most often celebrated outdoors with backyard barbecues. But it’s also a great time to be hiking the rainforest of the Kaikoura mountain range or on the waters of Kaikoura Bay, one of the most biodiverse marine environments on the planet. It’s the summer home of sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, and pilot whales, and all it takes to commune with them is a boat and a bit of perseverance.
— Lee McGill, Writer for Travel & Leisure

So bring on the sunshine. Bring on the dolphin swims and the ocean dives. Sure, I'll still be watching Christmas movies in bed with cinnamon cocoa some evenings. But this is another chance to spend Christmas in the sea, and I'm pretty stoked on that. Also, what do you think of my driftwood Christmas tree? With inspiration and help from some cheery friends, this magic piece of art is currently lighting up my room.