Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy solstice!

Pohutukawa by Sandy Austin

I was a teenager the last time that December 21st was the longest rather than shortest day of the year. So here I am, sitting in the sun, looking out over the bay and the seasonal blooms of the pohutukawa trees. And although I very much miss the people I love, I feel at home here in "the antipodes," happier and more at peace than I can remember feeling in years.

New Zealanders' attitudes towards the holidays are familiar, but it does seem a bit weird to be wearing shorts and planning a bbq. Still, a little historical research turned up some interesting Kiwi traditions, like this popular 1960s song with lyrics that "read like a manifesto of workers’ rights":

Sticky Beak the kiwi

Now Sticky Beak the kiwi, that bird from way down under
He's caused a great commotion and it isn't any wonder
He's notified old Santa Claus to notify the deer
That he will pull the Christmas sleigh in the southern hemisphere.

Lots of toys for girls and boys load the Christmas sleigh
He will take the starlight trail along the Milky Way.
Hear the laughing children as they shout aloud with glee:
'Sticky Beak, Sticky Beak, be sure to call on me.'

Now every little kiwi, and every kangaroo, too,
The wallaby, the weka, and the platypus and emu,
Have made themselves a Christmas tree with stars and shining bright,
So Sticky Beak will see the way to guide the sleigh tonight.

Now Sticky Beak the kiwi, that Maori-land dictator,
Will not allow Rudolph's nose this side of the equator
So when you hear the sleigh bells ring you'll know that he's the boss,
And Sticky Beak will pull the sleigh beneath the Southern Cross.

Or this game recommended in the 1934 Evening Post Christmas supplement:

"What to do at indoor Christmas parties is becoming more and more of a problem. Here are some suggestions which may help to add diversion to the occasion: For instance, you can sell some of your guests. This game is called "The Slave Market." You choose five or six players, attractive-looking girls if possible to be sold as slaves, and one good compere to act as auctioneer. You give, say, twenty counters to each of the other players, whose object is to buy as many slaves as possible. If two players manage to buy the same number of slaves, the one who has most counters left wins. Skill consists in "pushing" the bids of other players and lying low for bargains. This sounds easy in cold blood, but is not so easy when the players are subjected to the blandishments of a) Uncle William as auctioneer after a good dinner and b) the slaves. It would be a shame to let Jane's saucy eyes go for a paltry two counters!"

However you celebrate, I wish everyone a very happy holiday, and especially to those of you who face the long, cold dark of winter - may your light burn warm and bright into the new year.


Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora Anne,
I am also an expat "Yank" living in New Zealand, coming up on 17 years now. Christmas has become a summer event indeed, yet somehow I still smile wistfully at the memories of white Christmas's in snowy Wisconsin. I found your place from a link at Gumption - Joe McCarthy. In any case Haere mai, and hope you enjoy this beautiful land. Happy Yuletide.


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