Different countries all over the world have many different gift-giving days throughout the month of December and the Christmas season. To celebrate this, we have a gift to give you on each of these days, in the form of a blog from one of our amazing authors, and a book giveaway.
Today, in the Czech Republic, children await the coming of St. Nicolas (or Svatý Mikuláš).
He is accompanied by a number of angels and devils and asks the children if they’ve been good this year. He might even ask them to sing a song or recite a poem. He will then give them a basket of presents, often containing chocolate and fruit if they have been good, but if they’ve been bad the devil will give them a lump of coal.
Another Czech Christmas tradition is for girls to put a twig in water on the 4th December. If it blossoms before Christmas Eve, it is said that she will marry in the following year.
We have two gifts for you today, the first is a blog by David Hair on celebrating Christmas in New Zealand and his own family traditions (see below!). The second is a Christmas giveaway for the first two books in David Hair’s ‘The Return of Ravana’ series – THE PYRE and THE ADVERSARIES. This is a thrilling timeslip YA historical fantasy series that redefines and reinvents the Ramayana – the great Indian epic of love, revenge, fidelity and war. To win, all you have to do is log in to Facebook or Twitter, ensure you’re following us/you like our page and then share or retweet the post with the link to this blog. You can find them here on Twitter and here on Facebook.
Merry Christmas, or as they say in the Czech Republic . . .
Christmas in New Zealand by David Hair
Christmas is different Down Under. It’s not your traditional northern snow and jingle bells thing.
For a start, it’s summer, without a hint of snow. If the weather’s playing ball (New Zealand tends to have four seasons in one day), it’ll be 30 Celsius plus, and Christmas dinner tends to be cooked on a barbecue. Ham is the big tradition, off the bone, with pineapple and salad and spuds. Cricket on the lawn maybe. Swimming at the beach or in a pool. Lots of beers. No fancy clothes.
It also corresponds with the end of the school year so most people take their holidays around that time and there are lots of statutory holidays as well.
People joke about New Zealand ‘closing down’ for Christmas, and it’s kind of true – we work up to Christmas Eve (though December can sometimes be a blur of work-based Christmas functions), then we zing around the country to visit family and take two or three… or four or five… weeks off to enjoy the best of summer and the school holidays. In recent years the commercialization of Christmas has led to more and more shops staying open to run Boxing Day sales and cater to holiday-makers. Non-retail businesses don’t really get going properly again in the New Year until the third or last week of January.
For myself, I remember the Christmases of my childhood and teenage years as a kind of road movie. We’d usually go to midnight mass (Catholic upbringing) in Napier, and get to bed at about 2am. But we’d still be up at around 7am for presents, then rush around watering gardens and packing bags for the journey to come. By 10am we’d be in the car, driving for two hours through the central plateau to Taupo then Rotorua, where Mum’s parents lived. We’d have Christmas lunch with them, plus assorted extended family; then late afternoon drive another hour or so to the rural farming district of Paengaroa, to my Dad’s sister’s farm, for a big Christmas dinner with his family, who are many. Some years thirty to forty people would be there– us kids racing around on bicycles or whatever, playing games until late at night in between giant plates of food. Then finally around midnight, we’d drive another hour, on to Tauranga and Dad’s parent’s place to get some sleep.
Was it exhausting? Yep. Was it fun? You bet. It was a big family, but because we seldom saw them all, it was a treat, and I only remember good times.
Then the following days would be all about swimming pools, tennis and biking at the farm, visits to all Mum and Dad’s friends from when we lived up that way – and lots of beachy stuff, and sunburn. Eventually, we’d meander the half-day drive back south to home, to find the gardens and lawns parched, our Christmas presents still stacked on the floor to enjoy, and weeks until school restarted. Golden days…
It still happens, but now my generation are the ones standing around jawing and drinking while the kids romp. My children are in their twenties now and hang with we oldies. I’ll miss it and them this year: Kerry and I are living in Bangkok and it’s too far to travel. And when I say I’ll miss it – I’ll really miss it! Although we will have pools, and food and lovely weather and time off work – we’re off to Myanmar (Burma,) which I’m sure will be amazing.
So wherever you are, whether it’s in snow or sunshine, have a great holiday season, and enjoy your family because all things are transitory.
Here’s a little something to give you a taste of what I’m talking about: “Summer Wonderland”, a Kiwi re-take of an old classic. Enjoy!