Christmas Day is celebrated across New Zealand on 25 December, and is one of the most actively celebrated holidays in the country.
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Christmas in New Zealand has the same roots as Christmas across the world. It is the celebration of the day Jesus Christ was born in approximately 4AD. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus was born in a stable in the area of Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod and was visited by kings from the east who followed a star that led them to the baby.
In New Zealand, we have some of the best views of the night sky and our version of the famous star that led the kings from the east is our Southern Cross constellation and is the base of our Christmas carol, ‘The Southern Cross looks down’. And we have some of our own carols too, sung in Maori to old familiar tunes.
Christmas in New Zealand is generally warm so the traditional colours of Christmas, red, green and white, have different meanings here to the northern hemisphere’s robins, holly and snow. Red here is the Pohutukawa, our NZ Christmas tree with blooms of red throughout December. Our green is the kiwi fruit we put with our red strawberries on our white pavlovas.
Some families like to cook their Christmas meal by ‘laying a hāngi’, a fire pit in the ground where rocks are heated. Food wrapped in leaves, sacking or foil, like pork legs and vegetables, are laid on top of the hot stones and covered with earth. The meal is often eaten late in the day and Christmas carols are sung.
New Zealand has the privilege of being the first major country in the world to see the sun rise on Christmas Day and, with it being light in some of the South Island from 5am to 10pm, has a longer Christmas Day than almost anywhere else in the world.