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Celebrating a German Christmas down under

21 Dec 2011, 07:15

Published: 21 Dec 2011 07:15 GMT+01:00

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Tinsel sparkles and dangles from trees, fake snow decorates windows, Christmas carols ring out in shops – and the hot summer sun beats down, forcing sweating Santas into shorts and sunglasses.

“It's hard to get used to,” laughs Katrin Haase, a cheery 37-year-old joiner from Düren, near Cologne, now living in Dunedin, a small university city on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island.

“For me, Christmas is about winter markets, the spices in Glühwein and Lebkuchen, and cold, dark weather,” she says. “Here it's totally different. It's warm and really light at night. If you light some Christmas candles, you can't really see them.”

Having moved with her husband, Jörg, also a carpenter, and their two young daughters, to the South Pacific in the search for work three years ago, she says she loves living in New Zealand because of the work opportunities here. She and her husband specialise in timber doors and window frames and Dunedin is full of old wooden houses, plus the openness of the city to people from other countries. What has been harder to wrap her head around is some of the Christmas traditions on this side of the world.

“When I see these cotton-wool snowflakes, it's pretty normal for me, but I think it must be strange for New Zealanders having fake snow in the middle of summer,” she says from her home in the quiet, residential suburb of Mornington.

Her family are also yet to embrace the typical kiwi Christmas day lunch of a roast turkey or a leg of ham with salad and new potatoes, followed by the super sweet meringue desert, pavlova, and thick slices of Christmas cake.

Not that they tuck into big plates of Teutonic holiday fare like goose, red cabbage and dumplings, instead. “Last year was really hot, so we just had a buffet with salad and nice cheeses and things like that,” Haase says.

The year before they had a barbeque. Despite the change in yuletide food, they still get to feast on traditional German seasonal dishes. “Well, we do eat heavy food like that,” Haase explains, “but in winter when it's cold.”

There are a few home Christmas treats that they can't do without, however. Printen – thin, crunchy biscuits made with cinnamon and ginger, and Dominosteine – little layered cubes of cake, apricot jelly and marzipan covered in chocolate – are sent over every year from Germany by their family.

And as they normally would in Germany, the Haase household celebrate on Christmas Eve but, “because everyone else here does,” the family has started celebrating on the 25th as well. Presents are opened on the 24th, something, she says puts her daughters Frauke, 6, and Mara, 7, at an advantage over their friends. “The girls find it amusing when the other kids say: 'One more sleep before Santa comes', and they say: 'Not for us!'”

Haase also reckons that Christmases in New Zealand are more fun for kids in general. “In Germany it's solemn and serious. Here in New Zealand it's more about songs like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and Santa takes children on his knee. As kids in Germany we were really afraid of him and if you were bad, he wouldn't bring you any presents.”

Story continues below…

Children are warned the same thing in New Zealand, but Frauke and Mara, who go to a local Catholic primary school, don't seem too worried that they're going to miss out on a visit from the big jolly guy. The youngest isn’t sure what she wants, but Mara's keen on a new umbrella after her last one broke. Given the overcast day that sits over the city after a week of lovely sunny weather, it's probably not a bad present at all.

And what about their parents, is there anything they want for Christmas?

“Well, we miss family a lot at this time of the year,” Haase says. “But my mum's just got over from Germany and is here for three months, which is really nice.”

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Your comments about this article

09:00 December 21, 2011 by tallabigale
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
09:02 December 21, 2011 by ND1000
What, "In Germany it's solemn and serious"?????? The Germany I am from and live in is just as artificial as anywhere else in the world. I went shopping yesterday and most of the things are from China and fit the Chinese idea of Christmas. You can see the same garbage anywhere on the planet because it's all made in the same place. Most Germans have no idea what the real meaning of Christmas is either because they don't go to church. They live in the commercialized German Christmas with a lot of Chinese made junk sprinkled in for fun.
11:16 December 21, 2011 by Shiny Flu
Just as well they didn't move to Australia.

We always had roast pork with my mum's cracking crackling... but Boxing Day was all about a BBQ and watching the cricket.
14:16 December 21, 2011 by storymann
Somebody should proof read these articles before they are put online and correct the grammar.
15:39 December 21, 2011 by catjones
@ND1000....we couldn't agree with you more......

Happy Holidays,

The Taiban
18:55 December 21, 2011 by mikel taylor
Someone should tell storymannnn to get a life, grammar schamar, it's the thought that counts not the packaging
22:21 December 21, 2011 by reallybigdog
What can i say about the about comments but.."what a bunch of freakish people!!"
12:55 December 22, 2011 by storymann
mikel taylor it's storymann not storymannn, thanks I will take your wit under advisement.
19:55 December 23, 2011 by Carmelb
Interesting..this evening we will be hosting a Weihnachtliches Abendessen in my home for about 25 people here in Auckland, New Zealand. The majority will be homesick Germans (plus a few Norwegians, Danes and French) and those of us who miss Christmas in old Europe. We will light the candles and eat as many traditional foods as we can find the ingredients to make here. Last night we made Stollen and Vanillekipferl. Ive found a way to improvise with Rotkohl.

Even though its summer here in Auckland the evenings have been cloudy and chilly so it should be kind of nice to sit around the table with our 'fake' snow flakes and candles and pretend we are in a northern hemisphere winter feast :)
04:23 December 24, 2011 by Betty L
well you could come to AMERICA to celebrate CHRISTMAS with me I live in Florida. the part I live in doesn't get snow but it gets cold. down in the low 30s and frost and freezing temps. that might help some MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR
04:14 December 30, 2011 by Doggy
"Most Germans have no idea what the real meaning of Christmas is either because they don't go to church. " I like your statement.Did you go to a church? I felt too tired after this year's catastrophe, and felt as being unable to join my mum at a church. Happy New Year then!
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