Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas In The Sticks

Holy smokes it has been a busy two weeks! I've been up north for Christmas, down south for boxing day, and in between (also known as the Coromandel) for New Year's. Now I'm back home and at the risk of sounding like my dad, it's good to be sleeping in my own bed again!

Here are some pictures of Christmas day, which I spent in Ahipara, the little town at the bottom of Ninety Mile Beach where my eldest sister lives. Christmas morning in Ahipara begins with sirens, telling everyone Hana Koko is on his way. Everyone; children, adults, and dogs run out onto the road and wait for the fire-trucks to come, one of which carries Hana Koko, who waves and toots and throws lollies to everyone. Between scrambling for lollies, everyone wishes each other Merry Christmas and notices who looks hungover and who's on a new bike, while all around the hangi smoke rises from yards like little volcanoes.

Christmas in my family has always been the biggest day of the year, particularly for my dad. I don't know if it was because he didn't ever get a proper Christmas when he was young, but he has always built it up for us so it's been magical. Weeks before anyone else is even thinking about it, we start to get excited; listening to carols, decorating, and making plans. Christmas Eve all is at fever pitch; even as an adult I've always had trouble getting to sleep that night, and once I awaken (usually around six; completely out of character for me) I can't get back to sleep. This year, my middle sister had trouble sleeping for more than a week before Christmas (she is the Spirit Of Christmas, Past, Present and Future).

Christmas morning at home usually began with dad crashing around in the kitchen, pretending not to be trying to wake everyone up. He was always in charge of the cooking, and to eat dinner at one, the turkey and ham would need to be in the oven early (at least that was his excuse; I now think he just couldn't keep sleeping). One particularly memorable Christmas, the crashing began at about three or four in the morning. When dad got up a few hours later, he couldn't find any pots, and after drawing a blank from mum, went to ask my middle sister if she knew, noticed lumps under her duvet, and there were the pots carefully lined down either side of her in case she needed to puke in the night.

We would always have to wait until the food was on before having presents, except for our stockings, so we'd get ready and hang around the kitchen, dancing and getting ourselves worked up, as children eating chocolates and as adults, drinking bubbles. One of our Christmas traditions is Pina Colada, which we drink with relish all day, resulting in dad falling asleep shortly after lunch (he's not much of a drinker). The afternoon has always meant visitors, and usually a party at night to go to.

This year we spent Christmas with two of my eldest sister's friends and her neighbours, a family of five plus their lovely little dog. "We" were originally my parents, two sisters and I, but now also includes my two brothers-in-law, my two excellent little nieces, the two greatest dogs in the world, and of course, my Vincent. I love how families grow, and I love having lots of people and animals around at Christmas; having five people under sixteen (including a five-month-old baby) and three dogs was off the hook. This is my dog, Oscar, enjoying half of his brother's Christmas present (not given lightly, I might add, but obviously appreciated all the same).

And this is me, polishing off a pina colada and waiting for my turn at croquet.

The hat came in a cracker which also contained this joke: How does Jack Frost get to work? BY ICICLE. Oh how I love Christmas.

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