Several New Zealand Christmases ago, James and I camped out on a beach on Christmas Eve. It was just on a whim at the time, but it proved to be a simple way to build in a little time alone as a new, young family of our own starting a tradition or two. It's become subtly important to me - squeezing in a bit of my own agency before heading off for the NZ family gatherings.
This year, with our two Alaskan friends, we headed down to the Catlins on Christmas Eve. The Southerly blowing in from Antarctica with gale force winds and hail mandated one small adjustment: We stayed in a friend's 'crib' instead of tents. This crib is a favorite spot for James and I. It's an old house from the area's logging and railroad days. Today it's in the middle of nowhere, along some unnamed gravel roads. And it's quirky. Very quirky.
The Southerly gave us permission to light the fire, making it really feel like Christmas Eve. With a glimmer of optimism, I noticed the scene of green hills, sheep, gravel roads, and crazy weather was beginning to feel a bit familiar in that cozy, sentimental kind of way. I'm sure the champagne helped.
With clearing weather on Christmas morning, we headed off to the big family gathering - a giant spread of food, consumed outside, amidst conversation and kids throwing a rugby ball. James' siblings looked liked lobsters after a day in the summer Christmas sun. The busy day concluded with just his immediate family members. By the time the unwrapping was finished and the cookies and wine were consumed, it was 11pm.
When New Years Eve rolled around and we hosted a sushi party - one of my favorite things to do in general and doing it on New Years Eve might become another new tradition! It was a risky endeavor and I must admit I was nervous - all my friendships here are still quite new and it took a bit of courage to go out on a limb like this. I think it went well! Just before midnight, we walked to the Octagon where the street vendor's hot donuts provided sugary-deliciousness with the midnight fireworks.
Strangely enough, I realized fireworks and sushi seem to go together for me - in Alaska we always had a sushi party on the 4th of July - just as an alternative to the burgers and hotdogs. (Funny how in one country I try to break traditions and in the other, I want to make them.) Just like the 4th of July in Alaska, the New Years fireworks in Dunedin are at midnight... because in both cases it's summer and that's when it's finally good and dark.