Xmas is here!! (not really).

Well yesterday was the first day of Xmas according to my wife. We were supposed to put up the tree but it never quite eventuated. The 28th of November is now our dedicated Xmas tree decoration & topping day but as I type our perennial  plastic pine sits alone disassembled in the attic crawl space. A nasty winter vomiting bug wrecked our plans and now we will just have to wait until December (That’s at least a couple of days).

It seems that Xmas starts earlier every year and I must admit after more than a decade in Ireland I have grown more and more accustomed to the approach that the Irish give to festive occasions. Now if I compare them to the days of yore growing up in New Zealand there are some startling differences. It is perhaps down to the season (weather) at times but if I was to generalise the Irish go all out for festive occasions. Here are some comparisons:

St Patricks Day: Obviously this is celebrated more vigorously in Ireland. The festival runs for a week and it is the home of St. Patrick (although not his birthplace as Paddy was born in Wales). One thing I have noticed is an increased observance of this holiday in New Zealand. No one gets the day off but lots of Kiwis now make a night of it. In the late nineties there were half a dozen Irish pubs in Auckland who ran a St Patrick’s pub crawl but now every Irish pub parties on that night. There are also big gatherings in the vicinity of St Patrick’s Cathedral (Auckland).  Maybe this has something to do with the surge in interest in Ireland’s national day.

Skytower goes green for St. Patrick’s Day. Auckland, N.Z.

Easter: The main differences between the two countries are the number of days off during Easter. In Ireland only Easter Monday is a public holiday. So Good Friday is not-so-good if you live in Ireland. People tend to buy all available alcohol surpluses on the previous Thursday in preparation for the 24-hour drought that takes place. In New Zealand Good Friday /Easter Monday are holidays but I don’t remember there ever being a big fuss. It was a couple of days off.  A chocolate egg on Easter Sunday was the norm. Recently in Ireland I have seen a worrying trend with the younger generation (i.e. my kids, nieces and nephews). They get half a dozen eggs each as well as presents! It’s literally ‘Little Xmas’.

Halloween: All I have to go on in New Zealand was the one time I trick or treated with a few friends on Waiheke Island (about 1988). We walked for bloody miles through a sparsely populated area. It was never going to be productive. In response to ‘Trick or Treat!’ out of every four houses: One wouldn’t answer the door (holiday home), one told us they didn’t “believe in Halloween so piss off”, one would offer whatever they had in a last minute pity exercise (fruit, nuts and other rabbit food) and the last smart bugger would say “Trick”. All we had were the nuts from the last place so we threw them at the smart arse and inevitably had no treats left. In Ireland there is actually a day off so straight away it feels more like a festive time. Marketing runs for at least a month and to give you an idea of the savagery I will recount last Halloween: In thirty minutes the 50-plus children that live in my street alone had depleted the goodie bags I made up. I went to my back-ups and broke into bags of jelly’s and lollipops. After an hour I regretfully broke into the tin of Cadbury’s Heroes that my wife and I were eyeing up and handed them out in singles only. After two hours there was nothing. I locked the door, put on the alarm and turned off the light.

Xmas/New Years: This is a funny one. Christmas in summer or winter, which is better? That depends where you’re from. In Ireland I like that you are forced by the elements to spend time with your family. Sometimes it can be rewarding and other times traumatic but it’s just invaluable time in the company of each other. In New Zealand the weather allows people to go to one place for lunch and another house for dinner. There was an element of the optional to it which is why instead of huddling round a fireplace Kiwis chose to stand around a barbecue. But in either scenario the sense of family is strong. It doesn’t matter whether the kid is in Dublin or Christchurch they still share the same wide-eyed joy at that time. It is however that transition to New Year that provides the main difference between the cultures – especially for young adults. As the Irish start to feel fatigued from the rich winter food, the sweets and the sedentary Xmas, the young New Zealander prepares for New Years. For a New Zealand teen there is nothing better than New Years. Preparation begins on Boxing Day and ramps steadily up until completely losing the run of themselves on New Year’s Eve. The next day they wake on a beach drunk, de-flowered and delirious. New Years is the only time I can categorically say Kiwis can out-party the Irish.


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