Ah, Christmas! Jolly Santas, white falling snow, reindeers and sleighs.
Well, not if you’re living in New Zealand. While our Northern European and American counterparts may be sipping mugs of hot cocoa and slipping into thick coats, Kiwis are busy gulping ice cold drinks and walking around town in jandals (rubbered slippers).
For Kiwis, the Christmas season marks the start of a string of outdoor activities (weather dependent), such as camping, hiking, and going away on the weekends chilling at a bach (pronounced as “batch”, and is a Kiwi slang for a holiday house) by the beach.
Christmas at the Ong household is a slightly quiet affair. While we don’t do big dinners and fancy presents, it doesn’t mean Christmas gets missed. For us, it’s more about time spent together as a family, attending Christmas performances at church, and our favorite—carols at the church on Christmas Eve.
So you might probably be thinking, Christmas at the Ongs sounds rather ho-hum!
But it really isn’t, and I still do love the Christmas season. Below are five reasons why I love the festive season.
1. Listening to My Favorite Christmas Songs
For me, listening to songs such as Mary, Did You Know?, O, Holy Night, and Away in a Manger, is the best part of Christmas. Christmas carols renew my sense of awe for Jesus. This is because I tend to push Jesus to the recesses of my mind as I go about my various daily tasks.
But taking the time to listen to songs such as O, Holy Night reminds me of the promises that the birth of Jesus brings, such as the healing of sicknesses and the forgiveness of sins—to name a few. And this fills me with hope for the new year, knowing the same Jesus who came 2,000 years ago will walk with me over the next 365 days.
2. My Alarm Clock and Exercise Routine Takes A Break
The Christmas season is also an opportunity to take a little break after a year of busyness. After all, even God rested on the seventh day of Creation (Genesis 2:2-3), and the Scriptures says a well-deserved break after hard work is beneficial for us (Ecclesiastes 8:15) .
One of the things I love about the Christmas break is the sweet silence of my alarm. Being able to rise when I want to, instead to the shrill demands of my alarm at 5:55 a.m., is a dream.
The other thing that is most excellent about the Christmas break is that the weekly swim squads and ocean classes I attend wind down for the year, resuming in the new year. Don’t get me wrong, I do love swimming, but it’s also nice to take a break from pushing myself to keep my swim time down (and end up smelling like chlorine for two days), and it’s lovely not having to keep fighting back my fear of the open water as I wade out every Saturday morning with coaches and fellow swimmers.
3. Family Time on Road Trips
My family packs our bags for a road trip every Christmas season. As most of my relatives are living overseas, we do not have any immediate family to visit.
So, we tend to take our Christmas by going out of town. This year, we’ll be heading into Taupo and Rotorua, located about two to three hours outside Auckland. Taupo is famed for its pristine Huka Falls and the Lake Taupo, which is the size of Singapore.
Rotorua is a geothermal town with its natural hot mineral springs. I am unable to contain my excitement at the idea of soaking my weary bones and muscles in the hot pools.
4. Treats for Myself
Christmas is the season for giving, but the list of people I buy Christmas presents for are very small, as most of my friends are living overseas, and are well-established enough in their careers to be able to treat themselves throughout the year.
But that doesn’t stop me from treating myself. You see, my birthday’s about four days before Christmas, and I tend to treat myself to all sorts of gifts. This year, I have bought a bespoke book subscription from an independent bookseller in London, plus two more books from another online retailer, and am considering buying a new backpack to store my swim gear.
5. The Endless Food Feasts
I love a good feed, and in my opinion, there are no other seasons on the calendar where the days are filled with continuous eating than Christmas. The warmer season could mean people are more willing to catch-up, so the weekends and evenings after work are often filled with appointments and opportunities for me to reconnect with my friends, and eating is always involved.
My work hosts its annual Christmas buffet lunch in-house, with a variety of meats to choose from, complete with free drinks and my absolute favorite, the ice-cream cart. This year, I intend to try to eat two ice-creams during lunch, a feat I have yet to achieve.
These are five of my favorite things about Christmas. While I look forward to times of celebration and relaxation as I gear up for the year ahead, I’m also reminding myself to take some time out to remember and reflect on the birth of Jesus, who is the reason for Christmas. I hope that as you enjoy the festive season, you’ll do the same.