Kiwi Christmas traditions icons

Kiwi Christmas Traditions

It’s December now, so you’re probably hearing Christmas carols every time you walk down the street. Yes – it’s nearly the end of the year, so before we get there, we thought we’d look at some Kiwi Christmas traditions to get you in the Christmas spirit for the 25th of December!

The Christmas spirit is embraced by most Kiwi families. You might notice it in your workplace, around the shop front windows and on T.V and the radio. Some people love it more than others too. Often there will be that one person in the office that will wear their Santa hat every single day during December, even if it’s 25 degrees outside! Kiwis REALLY like getting festive. There are some essential Kiwi Christmas Traditions that you need to know about.

Christmas Trees

Most New Zealand families have a Christmas tree in their home. Putting the Christmas tree up is a great time to bond with your family as it is a quintessential Kiwi Christmas Tradition. There are 2 types of Christmas tree:

  • A small pine tree
  • A synthetic tree

Pine trees

Let’s start with the pine tree. A small pine tree is a good choice as there is very little assembly required.  They’re a natural alternative and they smell wonderful. Some people think that the aroma of pine needles is one of the essential features of Christmas in New Zealand.

The one disadvantage of using a real pine tree is that the needles will dry up and fall off the tree, particularly towards the end of December. It’s no biggy though, you can easily vacuum them up when you dispose of the tree.

Here’s a fun fact about pine trees:

One of New Zealand’s greatest All Blacks (the national rugby team) was called Sir Colin ‘Pine Tree’ Meads. We’re not sure how festive he was but he sure was a tremendous rugby player. Nice one Pine Tree!

Synthetic Christmas trees

Synthetic trees haven’t quite risen to the status of having a rugby player named after them, though they’re an excellent alternative to a Pine Tree. Synthetic trees are also popular because they’re easier to decorate. Synthetic trees have a wire frame so they keep an excellent shape for the whole month of Christmas. They don’t brown like a pine tree either but they will leave a few bits of stray shiny plastic on the floor once you’ve packed them up.

Pōhutukawa trees

While the Pōhutukawa is iconic for its red flowers (you’ve maybe seen it on Christmas cards), Kiwis usually have a traditional tree with decorations. It’s good to know about the Pohutukawa tree as this is one of the prominent trees you will see in summer, especially if you go to the beach.

Let’s talk about a few more essential Kiwi Christmas Traditions, and build-up to the big day.


Kiwis have celebrations and preparation leading up to Christmas day. Most towns hold a Santa Parade on the main street. The parades have community groups and local businesses with decorated floats in them – often with a lolly scramble and Christmas carols. Christmas advertising can start in late October so people don’t leave their present buying to the last minute.

Advent calendars are popular for kids to help countdown to the big day. An advent calendar is a cardboard box with 25 windows that help with the Christmas countdown. Each window is opened on the corresponding day of December and usually contains chocolate.

As you walk around at night you might notice that many houses are decorated with Christmas lights. It is a Kiwi Christmas Tradition in many suburbs to show how festive they are by decorating the houses with bright lights. Keep your eyes peeled to community noticeboards as there are a few savvy operators that offer tours around these suburbs.


Christmas music usually includes traditional carols, like Jingle Bells, We Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. You won’t miss it, the shops play Christmas songs non-stop! A good way to gauge what type of ‘Christmas Style’ a family has is to see what their go to family Christmas music is. Are they a Michael Buble family? Are they a Mariah Carey Family? Or do they appreciate the classics like Snoopy’s Christmas and the 12 days of Christmas? There are many songs for you to enjoy during the December period.

It’s summer in New Zealand!

Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere Christmas falls in summer, so there’s no chance of a white Christmas here. Unless you count white sand on the beach! Christmas in New Zealand is less about building snowmen and more about having a summer barbeque with family. People (including Santa!) often wear jandals, and a Christmas swim is a pretty common occurrence. Some Kiwis choose to go camping for Christmas too, which is a great way to be close to family and nature.


Due to the hot weather, Christmas lunch usually includes ham, chicken, lamb or even venison – and if you’re lucky you might get a few whitebait fritters. On top of this, Kiwis eat roast vegetables like pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, and kumara (sweet potato) with coleslaw and gravy on the side. For dessert, pavlova (a type of meringue cake), jelly and ice cream are all popular choices.

An important part of Christmas day is gift giving. An essential Kiwi Christmas Tradition is to sit around the Christmas tree and hand out presents. They can be given out before or after lunch, and give the children something to do for the remainder of the day.

Family sports

Lots of families set aside a fair chunk of time for a traditional game of backyard cricket. Backyard cricket is not just a Kiwi Christmas Tradition, it’s a New Zealand institution. It’s a great time to get competitive and get active after the Christmas lunch.

Woah – pretty long list, huh? At least you’ve now got everything you need to have a perfect Kiwi Christmas. Merry Christmas and a happy new year from the team at OrbitRemit!

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