When the European colonists made their way to the other side of the world, they took with them their traditions, their government style, their religion and their ways of life. New Zealand was crafted as a second, smaller, Britain on the opposite side of the world.
What we have lost, from having a culture and a calendar transplanted to the opposite side of the world, is seasonal appropriate holidays. We celebrate Christmas at the same time as everyone else, meaning it takes place early in our summer. Despite having warmer weather and some of the longest days, we burn through additional electricity, to light up trees and towns with festive lights. These are switched on hours before the sky darkens, to make the most of the Christmas season.
Living in northern Italy where the temperatures drop at this time of year and we even get snow, suddenly all the accessories to Christmas celebrations make a lot more sense.
Winter in Italy looks something like this:
Autumn: The occasional festival marks the wine harvest, mostly in smaller towns. We’re yet to visit any, but close to us, in Avio, this is marked by rolling wine barrels through the town.
End of November: Christmas markets open, actively encouraging people to stand outside in the dark and cold, drinking vin brule (mulled wine), eating snacks and being merry. Also: Christmas lights. We’re getting closer to the shortest day, so the decorated trees and town lights make everything a little more festive and welcoming.
8 December: (today! hurray for holidays) officially a religious holiday, unofficially the start of the skiing season. If the world doesn’t continue heating up, that is. Apparently even up in Germany things just aren’t as cold as they used to be.
25, 26 December: Christmas. holidays Eat, drink, family, presents, etc etc.
1 January: a one day holiday for Capodanno. Happy New Year!
8 January: the epiphany. Officially a religious holiday, but celebrated with an old witch called Befana, who flies around on a broomstick delivering Christmas stockings and sweets to children.
February-ish, or two – three weeks prior to 40 days before Easter: Carnevale celebrations take place, leading up to Ash Wednesday and Lent. The length and party style vary, but all celebrate the end of winter.
Conclusion: winter in Italy is one long party. Perfectly designed for getting through the harsh months of winter, encouraging travel, celebrations and eating. Summer isn’t so bad either, with the entire country taking a two week holiday in mid-August.
Winter in New Zealand, on the other hand, looks something like this:
First Monday in June: a one day holiday to celebrate (the British) Queen(‘)s birthday.
Fourth Monday in October: a one day holiday for Labour day, commemorating the struggle for an eight hour working day.
And in between? Did I miss something? Nope, nothing. Just rain, wind (that’s Wellington) or snow (that’s for the other bits of the country).
Conclusion: New Zealand needs its own harvest festival or mid-winter celebration, to take the chill out of the air. We should perhaps start celebrating Matariki, the Maori New Year that takes place in late May or early June, with more enthusiasm.