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Christmas in Christchurch

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I must admit, my non-religious self was a bit skeptical spending a day celebrating the birth of Christ in a place whose name consists of both “Christ” and “Church.” Visions of baby Jesus displays and nativity scenes haunted me prior to arriving in this very British New Zealand city – on the contrary, however, Christchurch afforded Scott and I pretty much the best Christmas we have ever had.

Our YHA hostel last night did not have any decorations or celebrations on Christmas eve, which was a bit sad for us. We thought it might be a bit more of a party, perhaps with a large group of hostel stayers preparing a large potluck Christmas meal. Unfortunately, most people kept to themselves, so Scott and I decided to finish up odds and sods of the remaining groceries and left over food we have accumulated over the past few days/weeks, so we ended up eating pasta and pizza on Christmas eve. Awesome. The movie “A Knight’s Tale” was playing on the TV, so we cozied up with our fellow travellers and watched the movie for most of the evening.

The Avon River

The Avon River

We woke up Christmas morning and had a nice big eggs and hash brekki. After packing up our stuff and stowing it in a locker for the day, we headed out into the city to see what was shaking and if anything would be open (which we thought might be unlikely due to the religious undertones we had collected from the city). Our hostel had a great location just a few blocks from Cathedral Square (the main central point of the city – again, visions of churchgoers on Christmas morning flooded my mind), so we decided to head there. We had spent Christmas eve there as well, enjoying Magnums (my beloved ice cream treat from Europe which was mostly responsible for my weight gain there in 2003) and enjoying the scenes…the architecture is all very old and European, so it made me feel like I was right back in Europe.

Christmas morning in the square was awesome. People were everywhere and the day was hot and fabulous. Looking for a quaint European coffee shop to sit down at and enjoy, we only found a Starbucks. I guess they are the only ones with enough dough to pay the rent for that prime space. Finding real estate in the form of a table and chair was also difficult – we had to perch for some time before grabbing one with four chairs. As soon as I sat and Scott went to order us drinks, an elderly couple asked if they could share the table. I would guess they were around 75 or 80 and were from Australia, on a cruise around New Zealand for the holidays. They were lovely people (with a son named Scott who is also in the computer field)…they immigrated to Australia for the warm weather from Great Britan about 40 years ago. They’ve travelled Australia and Asia extensively over the past 20 years, and gave us lots of tips of places to see and things to do.

Us hanging out at Starbucks in Christchurch's central square

Us hanging out at Starbucks in Christchurch's central square

After parting ways with the elderly couple, we decided to go for a walk down the Avon river – it is a gorgeous little river that meanders through the city. You can hire someone to “punt” you down the river (someone stands on the back like in Venice and pushes you on a long boat), but after scoping it out and seeing that they’d cram the boat with about 6 other couples, Scott and I decided it wasn’t so romantic. Instead, we opted to walk the same section they punt down. We saw a canoe rental shop a ways down the river, but unfortunately it was closed…so that was too bad. We ended up walking for about 2 hours, following the river as it wound it’s way back to essentially the same place we started. We spent some time admiring ducks and listening to what the punter guys were telling their clients as they sailed slowly by. The river and associated parks were full of Christchurch dwellers, gathering with their families for Christmas picnics. Most had set out large blankets, lots of food, and brought all of their Christmas presents to open whilst gathered there. It was lovely.


The Christchurch cathedral

The Christchurch cathedral

In the mid-afternoon, we decided it was time for a drink. Not too many bars were open, but we managed to find an English pub – “The Bard on Avon,” with a nice little view of the river. The place was pretty bumping. Donning our little Santa hats and shorts, listening to Christmas carols and enjoying our favourite New Zealand beer, Scott and I decided that a summer Christmas really suits us. We actually found the Christmas carols enjoyable (they make me really angry in the winter…the darkest and coldest days are not “the most wonderful time of the year,” damnit, but the warmest and longest days sure are!). We shared a fish and chips, since we hadn’t had any since being in the country and they are very popular and somewhat renound here and enjoyed the scenery, company, and all around awesomeness of having Christmas in the summer. Imagine Christmas in Edmonton in the summer! Days that start at 4:30 a.m and go until 11 p.m….river valley picnics and long bike rides with friends and family, capped with drinks at O’Byrnes. Sounds like paradise to me (however, I know I’m going to get a lot of heckling comments from you “white Christmas” lovers out there…to each their own!!)….we might have to take a page out of the elderly Australian couple’s book and immigrate to the backwards part of the world…

Cheers!  Merry Christmas

Cheers! Merry Christmas

At around 4:30, we had to head back to the hostel and catch the aiport shuttle to the airport hotel we are staying at tonight. We shared the shuttle with a fellow from California who has been kayaking around New Zealand – that would be a cool way to see the country as well. Our hotel is pure luxury compared to Happy Diwali and our hostels, and comes complete with a pool. We’ve spent the evening sunning ourselves and dipping our toes in the water while enjoying beer and wine. Not a bad way to wrap up the best Christmas ever (if only we could have shared it with our loved ones). We’re about to eat some dinner and head off to sleep, and get to bed super early for our hideous 5 a.m flight tomorrow.

So with this, we say goodbye to New Zealand and hope to return someday. Off to Sydney now for a whole week – it will feel like forever, since we haven’t stayed anywhere for more than 2 nights in NZ!

4 comments to Christmas in Christchurch

  • David

    put a shirt on….you are going to blind everyone ahhhhhhhh!!!

  • Cheryl

    Merry Christmas guys! Have fun in Sydney.

  • Dad

    His holiness the Buddha and the Dalai Lama wish both of you a happy and prosperous non-denomination holiday. The boys and I went to temple today and off to the golf course. The natives are complaining about the mid 70’s temperatures but it beats Edmonton hands down.

    Love Dad & Lorna

  • Stacey

    Hope you had a very merry chriatmas and have a HAPPY new year. You will be missed.

    Take Care.

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