The Meaning of Christmas

December is busy. But this year it strikes me that we all have contrasting experiences of this silly season, not only across the globe, but within our own community.

We try to discover the real meaning of Christmas, donating to charity, dropping food parcels off to the City mission, and attend an advent service despite missing our seats in the pew all year. But the reality is we’re a privileged middle class family in one of the safest and freest nations in the world. We’re not in the midst of a Syrian civil war, we are not living on the streets of Auckland or taking refuge in our car. Never has this been more stark than this year. We’re trying to cut down on our consumables (ever aware of the need to pack it all up next July) and don’t want any member of our family of four to be receiving too much “stuff” this Christmas. What a wonderful problem to have.

We’re enjoying daily pictures and videos from our family in the UK. Christmas shopping is tackled in warm overcoats and fluffy hats, there’s outdoor ice skating and Christingle services by candlelight, and the Christmas lights are truly spectacular. It’s no wonder that our British loved ones think we’re missing out at Christmas.

But my take on Christmas is different. As a child I’d get as excited about setting off for a camping holiday on Boxing Day as a visit from ole St Nick. I still well up with emotion at the sight of Pohutakawas in bloom, and no Christmas day is complete without sand between my toes.

With our impending big trip we decided not to go away this year. It’s apparently known as a “Staycation”. We’re going to enjoy our local beach, having time together as a family, catch up with friends that we should see more of. We want to explore the riches we have on our doorstep. We’re not planning a large festive meal, stuffing ourselves full while others go hungry. We will see our NZ family, and we’ll have time for bubbles with friends. We’ll gravitate around but stay close to home too. I’m excited about the kiwi simplicity of ham and rolls, a side of salmon and wine from the Marlborough valleys, a tartan picnic rug and a sandy spot beneath a sweeping pohutukawa canopy. And we need to drink in every moment….

….Because next year, as global travelers, we’ll be enjoying a very different Christmas.

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