The sun is shining and teenagers have that haunted end-of-year-exams look – it must be nearly summer, which means it’s also nearly Christmas.
It still feels wrong. I struggle to get into ‘the spirit’ when I’ve packed away the woollies and boots and my newly polished toenails are on daily display.
It’s only Christmas when it’s dark by teatime, curtains are closed and you’re wrapped up against the cold. ’Tis not the season when, by the time it’s dark enough to turn on the tree lights, the kids have been in bed for hours and it’s even adult bedtime. In daylight, tree lights don’t twinkle and tinsel looks tacky.
I miss the cold, the glow of the lights against the rain, walking home from work with misty breath, seeing brightly lit trees shining from homes and shops. I miss the hope that the temperature drops enough for real snow to match the cotton wool under the tree on my parents’ sideboard.
When I was a child, going to see ‘the illuminations’ in town was an event looked forward to all year, queuing in the cold to visit Santa in his grotto in the Peace Gardens.
Despite the lack of winter, northern hemisphere ideas still dominate Christmas – cards feature red-breasted robins (our robin has a white breast) and snow scenes. A friend’s child announced he wanted ‘a sledge’ for Christmas so that he could go sledging on the day. I suspect there’ll be tears in that house.
When Santa visits NZ he wears the same red suit, suffocating in the summer sun, and he has to be careful where he parks that sleigh in a country where the only good deer is skinned and on the plate. Practically, he’d be in shorts and sunglasses and driving a ute.
The season does, of course, allow for the possibility of an al fresco Christmas, although an indoor back-up plan is sensible. Our first Kiwi Christmas was spent huddled around the heater whilst an icy gale forced itself through the cracks around the door and horizontal rain jet-washed the windows. So much for the barbecue on the beach.
Even if the sun shines and you head for the beach, be prepared for a change of plan – Neil Finn isn’t joking when he sings about Four Seasons in One Day.
Wherever you spend it, hot or cold, I wish you a Merry Christmas.