Growing up, I knew a few families who went away for Christmas. Visiting relatives. Removing themselves from the frenzy that is the holiday season. It makes sense. But my family never did that. The holidays were at the house. Stockings, tree-trimming, Christmas music and baked goods. Lots of baked goods.
Then, in 2005 I moved to New Zealand to pursue graduate studies. I was lucky enough to be able to afford to go back home every year, but after the first visit back, I made a monumental (for me) decision: henceforth, I would travel home only during Canada’s summer.
That meant missing Christmas in Canada in favour of Dunedin, New Zealand. In December, the town is emptied of students, the wonderful farmers market is bursting with goodness, and I generally got my flat to myself for a week. So relaxing. I loved holidays in Dunedin.
And if the town’s centre (the Octagon) looked a bit weird (to me) with a giant Christmas tree surrounded by green, leafy trees and a summer marketplace, who cared. Sure I missed out on some baking and holiday meals (I admit I’m a sucker for a traditional turkey dinner), but so much the better for my waistline.
The strangest thing for me about being in the Southern Hemisphere during Christmas was the season. My rational mind knew it was December, but all the vegetation was bursting with colour. Flowers were blooming. Trees were lush. Grass was green. Weirder still, it was light late into the evening. My brain had a hard time reconciling Christmas with all those summery signals!