Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Seasonal Kiwi trivia

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Did you know that in most nations, the December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere and the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere. We Kiwis have decided that the first day of December is the “official” start of summer.

Summer and golfing go together. New Zealand has more golf courses per capita than any other nation.

This year the December solstice occurred at 21:48 UTC on the 21st of December, and on that day there were only four nations where the sun was in the northern sky no matter where in the country the sun was observed. These were Eswatini, Lesotho, New Zealand, and Uruguay.

The combined population of these four nations is approximately 11,000,000 or around 0.13% of the earth’s population.

In ten nations, the sun was either in the southern sky, the northern sky or directly overhead on the 21st of December, depending on your location: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Botswana, Chile, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Paraguay, and South Africa

In every other nation, the sun was entirely in the southern sky.

In 2006, Aotearoa became the first nation where the five highest constitutional positions were all held by women: the Head of State; the Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Chief Justice. Not sure, but it might still be the only country to have achieved this feat.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Christmas day, Boxing Day (26th December), New Years Day and the day after New Year are statutory holidays. That means persons who must work these days is paid at one and a half times their normal rate for the day and must be given an alternative day off on full pay as well.

Summer is the time to be outdoors and get away from urban life. What better than getting into some natural habitat. Did you know that about a third of NZ is protected national parks?

Christmas Eve marks the anniversary of this country’s worst rail disaster when, in 1953, the overnight express from Auckland to Wellington plunged into the Whangaehu River at Tangiwai resulting in the deaths of 151 of the 285 passengers and crew on board. The wall of the crater lake on nearby Mount Ruapehu had collapsed allowing two million cubic metres (75,000,000 cubic feet or 530,000,000 gallons) of water, ice, mud and rocks to spill down the mountain. The resulting lahar rushed down the Whangaehu River and took out the piers supporting the rail bridge only a few minutes before the express arrived at 10:21pm. The locomotive and the first five carriages plunged into the torrent. The sixth carriage hung over the edge of the river for a few minutes before its coupling to the remaining three carriages broke and it too fell into the river.

Strange, but true: There are more Scottish pipe bands per capita in New Zealand that there are in Scotland.

It’s a popular myth that Coca Cola is responsible for inventing Santa in a red suit. In fact he had been depicted in red for around 40 years before Coca Cola’s version. Harper’s Weekly hired Thomas Nast to draw Santa, and at first he was depicted wearing a star-spangled jacket and striped pants and hat as a morale booster during the American civil war. In later years, Nast drew Santa in a red suit, or occasionally green. In Aotearoa, Santa is often depicted wearing shorts and jandals (otherwise known as thongs in Australia and flip-flops elsewhere).

The USA and NZ via for the most cars per capita in the world. Of course we’re referring to nation states. There are four city states with more cars per capita. But they don’t count, do they.

Lamb is the most popular Christmas roast in Aotearoa, followed by roast pork. Always popular, especially in our family, is glazed ham, prepared the day before and served cold with salads on Christmas day. Turkey is well down the list, but growing in popularity. Last year over 150,000 turkeys were purchased for the festive season in NZ.

No NZ Christmas feast would be complete without a pavlova. A pavlova has the appearance of a meringue on the outside, being crisp and dry, but that appearance is only skin deep. The interior is soft, airy, moist and fluffy. I’ve tried several so called pavlovas while overseas or on ocean cruises. They weren’t. They were meringues topped with whipped cream and fruit. That does not a pavlova make.

Although many Kiwis erect and decorate a real or imitation fir tree indoors for the festive season, our “true” Christmas tree is the pōhutukawa. Over the Christmas period, these evergreens with dark green foliage are smothered in crimson red flowers. Pōhutukawa flowers disintegrate within minutes of being picked so you won’t find them in floral displays.

The first New Zealand Christmas stamps were issued by the New Zealand Post office in 1960. 22 million stamps were sold.

The world’s largest one-day yachting event takes place in Auckland on the last Monday in January every year. Typically, over 1,000 yachts take part. It is claimed that Auckland has the highest boat ownership per capita in the world. There is approximately one boat for every three households.

New Zealand has more helicopters per capita than any other nation.

In March 1903, Richard Pearse, an eccentric, reclusive farmer flew a heavier than air aircraft for a distance of a kilometer (0.6 miles) near Timaru in the South Island of New Zealand. However due to its low airspeed its maneuverability was questionable, and the flight ended with a crash into a gorse hedge. Pearse’s aircraft had many advanced features that didn’t appear on other aircraft for many years to come – some not for 50 years: It was a monoplane; it had a steerable tricycle undercarriage similar to modern aircraft, including a braking system; it used ailerons to control roll, rather than warping the wing as employed in other early aircraft; the pilot sat upright behind the engine and a forward facing propeller connected directly to the engine crankshaft; the propeller was variable pitch. Unlike the Wright brothers who had access to many resources, Pearse had to build every component of his airplane himself, including the engine. He even had to design and make his own spark plugs.

Road crashes, on average kill one person every day in Aotearoa. Over the Christmas holiday period, which this year began at 4pm Friday 23 December and ends 6am on Wednesday 4 January, 2023, that accident rate doubles. If you’re driving during this period, please take extra care on the roads.

Christmas Eve is less than ten minutes away, so it’s time to catch some sleep. Tomorrow we’re heading to the home of our daughter and family for an early Christmas celebration as most of her family will not be home on Christmas day. Meri Kirihimete ki a koutou ko te whānau (Merry Christmas to you and your family)

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Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

12 thoughts on “Seasonal Kiwi trivia

  1. Merry Christmas to you, Barry

    • And a Merry Christmas it is! As I write, I’m lying on the deck at our daughter’s home trying to recover from over eating. So far we’ve only had mains. Dessert is yet to come…

  2. This is awesome cool, Merry Christmas Barry

  3. Merry Christmas Barry. I would be concerned about the NZ flag changes. To many people these days are concerned about rewriting or eliminating NZ history any way they can.

    • OK I’ll bite. What flag changes and what rewriting of history?

      I voted for flag change in 2016 and would do so again if I had the opportunity. And our history does need to be rewritten to include stories a d perspectives of people other than old white males. For example the stories I heard from an elderly Māori woman who lived through the New Zealand Land Wars and Parihaka

      • So sorry to hijack your blog with a different subject but I briefly read your New Zealand flag changes article from some years ago and wondered about it and reminded me that I have come across people in Australia as well in NZ who would like to erase history as well as changing the flag. People can put their views across, that is no problem, a freedom and we should be glad of this, but wanting to erase Captain Cook statues and other notable figures of other cultures from history is totally wrong.

        The Americans and slavery, the Jewish slaughter, The Maori Wars, the burning of witches the War Of The Roses, The First World War, Port Arthur mass killing…..etc… etc should all be part of historic subjects in all schools. Most of modern history has had many more than one single writer and a fairly accurate depiction of what happened and will evolve even with biased attitudes from different historians but a lot of it is being shovelled under the carpet and that is not good because we learn from history.

        I have spoken to many Maori and the most notable Maori I have known is Hone Tuwhare and his half Scottish family whom I know very well. He understood history and had no bitterness or wanting change it to suit certain peoples views. Unfortunately he has left our planet but he was one of the few remaining full Maori still alive, in North Auckland anyway.

        There are still biased attitudes I know also of another Full Maori lady who is now in a rest home and when she does die it is going to be a hell of a battle as to where her body will be buried. This because the sons and daughters whom I also know as close friends are half white and they are not of one mind with her iwi\ tribal relatives. The family deserve to bury her in their family plot with her two sons, a daughter and their father, however she will have no say and they understand the body will be dug up and stolen by her distant whanau\family. Biased attitudes should be gone by now, however I still remember Maori and Pacific Islanders picking on usually smaller white boys because the bitterness against white men had been handed down by their parents or learnt through tribal roots. All cultures do matter to me and when I see people wanting to remove or change history to appease themselves or others it drives another wedge somewhere within society.

        I am not saying changing the flag will in itself be a problem but it will fire up any extremists. Anyway I like the flag with the blue and red colours, the black and white designs remind me of the gangs, the Black Power and Mongrel Mob use black and white to depict their gang insignia.

        • My flag preference was the “Red Peak” design as it incorporated the red, white and blue of the existing flag with the traditional Māori colours of red, white, and black.

          What happens to a deceased person’s body is not a matter of bias, unless you consider one culture more “correct” or “valid” than another. This is one example where Pākehā culture and Māori culture are incompatible, and I don’t have an answer for it, as both are “correct” from their respective positions.

          I’m not sure that the deceased person’s wishes are relevant – it’s the living relatives that are more important in my view. My father was adamant that he should be buried, not cremated, but my mother wished otherwise, and he spent the rest of my mother’s life on a shelf beside her bed. Her wish was for their ashes to be interned together on her death. Instead, I and my siblings chose to scatter the ashes of both parents into the Whanganui River, which formed one boundary of their former home. In our case there was no dispute amongst the living, but even within a family of one culture, disputes do arise that can’t be resolved amicably, so it’s not surprising that it occurs from time to time in multicultural families.

          The same goes to items such as statues and other commemorative monuments. One culture may think highly of a historical figure, while the other regards that same figure as the “embodiment of evil”. Just as I can understand why statues of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot have been pulled down, I can understand why a similar occurrence has happened here from time to time. It’s not a matter of erasing history, it’s a matter of putting it into perspective taking the sensitivity of our various cultures into consideration. And whether you like it or not, NZ history has been written from a very Pākehā perspective. That needs to be corrected.

          • That was an interesting answer Barry. By the very nature of history it is full of conflicting arguments. Take the two last world wars for example, the many hundreds of authors and film makers who have expressed their views that conflict totally with others and more often with the known facts.

            Most countries have been invaded by other cultures many times over, with only a couple of dozen countries that were not. Among the most invaded country of about 200 times according to Google would be India, and the country who invaded 90% of the cultures on the planet has in turn been invaded 73 times from different cultures since 1066 is Britain.

            Accuracy of wars and invasion events long ago will always be an inaccurate, biased and contentious issue and it can seem unfair or extremely one eyed but that is the way of human life, it happens today in the courts, in our news and within our governments all the time.

            As people of different cultures have bonded we have also changed as humans and many of the traditional beliefs and ideologies of the past have also evolved. For example homo sexuality has been reconsidered as biologically normal due to the understanding of science so they are not punished by law even though religions are reluctant to change. People considered as witches such as atheists and non-Christians are no longer burnt at the stake, also due to science and education creating many higher morals for modern human culture in progressive countries than any religious scriptures.

            If Maori are not prepared to leave bygones as history and not adapt some of their ancient traditions or ideals to respect other cultures in New Zealand they are dictating to the massive number of Kiwi’s who identify with some portion of Maori blood. These cultures are intertwined and has been proven it can be compatible.

            In certain cases the senior traditional Kaumatua or elders are men that live on their traditional lands and have often been hostile to their part Maori whanau. Friends have said to me that they are apprehensive about attending the traditional Maori funerals they are compelled to attend.

            The demolition of statues in what are and always have been mostly unstable countries with dictatorships and corrupt government who murdered their own people and committed genocide against others by turning their own people against themselves and who can blame them? Captain Cook was claimed by some historians to be a cruel man, evidently not just to some of the natives he came across but also to his own crewmen, therefore he was far from being a mass murderer but that makes no difference to some people who have claimed he was, but still that is no justification to remove his statue.

            We should take sensitivities of other cultures into consideration as you say but by understanding how wrong it was to accept territorial land grab, violence and the cruelty of those days we need to be sharing the grief and regrets with former enemies and allies alike such as we do with Waitangi Day and the 1914 war by not destroying or changing history to make some people in the community feel good.

            We could say there are atrocities by many governments of today such as the executing of criminals, indiscriminate warfare, the way that immigrants are rejected and treated or the discrimination of coloured people and women. I expect all of these things will be seen as disgusting by the majority of people if the planet survives another 100 years, but I would not hold my breath 🙂

            • If Maori are not prepared to leave bygones as history and not adapt some of their ancient traditions or ideals to respect other cultures in New Zealand…” Could not the same be said of Pākehā equally? Māori have so much of their culture trodden on and sometimes “legally”suppressed for almost 200 years. I can understand why many wish to retain what they can. Besides, like all cultures it has changed and continues to change generation by generation, as has Pākehā culture. While Māori historically have had to make all the “compromises”, I’m pleased to see than an increasing number of Pākehā are now willing to meet them part way. I’m sorry that you see this a Māori not respecting other cultures, when in fact they have been respecting Pākehā culture for almost 200 years and expecting, but not receiving, respect of their own culture in return. Their patience has been nothing but amazing.

              I mentioned the way our two cultures deal with the dead is currently incompatible, but eventually we will work out a compromise that may not entirely please either side, but will eventually be accepted by all. There are already examples where such a compromise has been worked out on a case by case basis. The most publicised examples have been where the a Māori individual has chosen to alienate themselves from their whānau, but these are relatively few compared to where the non-Māori partner has been welcomed into the whānau, hapū and iwi.

              Perhaps my perspective is different from yours because I grew up in a community where Māori made up a significant (although still a minority) proportion of the population and I learnt NZ history from a predominantly Māori perspective. I’m married to a person who grew up in Japan, and it would have been unreasonable to have expected her to give up her culture and adopt mine so that we could be together. Even fifty years on, we still find aspects of the other’s culture difficult to adapt to. What is true between two individuals is even more true between cultures.

              Our children continue to practise aspects of their Japanese history, and I would be very disappointed if they did not. My grandchildren are Māori, as well has having Pākehā and Japanese ancestry, and they are adapting to Māori culture like a duck to water. I, as do many Kiwi do not perceive ethnicity in terms of race or racial mixture or of “blood” which I find is an offensive term. Instead, it’s a sense of belonging that determines your identity. This has been and continues to be how I see it. This is similar to how gender identity and sexual expression works out. And as an autistic person I often feel alienated, and often excluded from the neuro-normative society that refuses to accommodate, and actually discriminates against what is essential to the wellbeing of neurodivergent folk. In this regard, my sympathies are with the Māori minority rather than with the Pākeha majority.

              In certain cases the senior traditional Kaumatua or elders are men that live on their traditional lands and have often been hostile to their part Maori whanau. Friends have said to me that they are apprehensive about attending the traditional Maori funerals they are compelled to attend.” I really don’t know what to say. Most traditional land was stolen, and I have yet to come across any Kaumātua/elders who are hostile to whānau of mixed heritage. The opposite in fact. That has been my experience with those I know who have mixed ancestry. A hapū really wants to adopt my wife and daughter whose only connection to Māori in terms of genealogy is being a grandparent and parent to Māori children. Once again it’s not race, but a sense of where one belongs that ultimately determines where one fits in.

            • “Māori have so much of their culture trodden on and sometimes “legally”suppressed for almost 200 years. I can understand why many wish to retain what they can.”

              Barry, New Zealand’s tourism and economics depends a lot on Maori culture, the government spends heaps on advertising NZ and many fascinated tourists come to NZ to see Maori culture for themselves. Maori culture is not going to go away any time soon, it is unique to NZ just as Fijian culture is to Fiji.

              I was married to a lovely Filipina lady and she became very sick with a grade 4 brain aneurysm in NZ while we were on holiday, her brain basically closed down and she was on a feeding tube. I brought her back to Australia where she died a year later. Unfortunately her family while in NZ plotted to take her back to the Philippines to die as their culture dictates. As her husband my wishes and rights including our daughters would be trodden on by the extended family as similarly robbing a grave in the name of culture would do.

              “I’m sorry that you see this a Māori not respecting other cultures, when in fact they have been respecting Pākehā culture for almost 200 years and expecting, but not receiving, respect of their own culture in return. Their patience has been nothing but amazing”.

              As I have said, their culture is up and running very well. I agree that they have been shafted by Pakeha, however I have explained how the wars, land grab, violence and murder was readily administered to many cultures around the globe by invaders and many were far worse off than Maori. As majority of Pakeha do respect cultural rights of all peoples in NZ so what can be done about these historic wrong doings 200 years down the track?

              Would it repair the past wrongs if all those who are mostly Pakeha were to leave NZ in shame and take with them their science, technology, principles, government, culture and language etc to attempt to restore NZ to pre- British days? Overwhelming majorities of Maori and all NZ people would not want this if it were indeed possible.

              Modern Maori and Pakeha\Asian and all immigrants compliment each others culture very well, I am not biased against my own culture for past events nor any other culture for their histories, we just have to be considerate of the law of the land and peoples rights to be able to live together, this is a new age for cultures.

              “Perhaps my perspective is different from yours because I grew up in a community where Māori made up a significant (although still a minority) proportion of the population and I learnt NZ history from a predominantly Māori perspective.”

              Well to tell the truth Barry I was bought up largely in an area of state housing and we shared the neighbourhood our schools and events with a lot of Maori and Pacific Islanders who were not a small minority at that time. I boarded with a couple of Maori families after I started work and I am well aware of how many of them and the island boys viewed history and the Pakeha, I along with other predominantly white boys have fought battles, been chased and harassed by knife wielding black gangs more than once.

              “I, as do many Kiwi do not perceive ethnicity in terms of race or racial mixture or of “blood” which I find is an offensive term. Instead, it’s a sense of belonging that determines your identity.”

              I do not understand what you mean, a sense of belonging is non-specific and could be about belonging to anything. A “blood brother” statement would not be an offence to anyone, “he is of half Chinese and half Irish blood and a citizen of Australia” statement leaves absolutely no doubt as to identify and highlights the persons original roots that they should be proud of, with their current identity as Australian. That is simply a fact, and who would that bloody well offend? 🙂

              “Most traditional land was stolen” “I have yet to come across any Kaumātua/elders who are hostile to whānau of mixed heritage.”

              I agree land was stolen and bartered for muskets, and sold by Maori to buy European goods etc, this is what happened world wide and I did not mean hostile attitudes to mixed heritage people by elders was the normal, as a lilly white skinny young man I have attended Maori traditional funerals and even a traditional Tongan marriage without any issues, I was pointing out a specific issue that does occur and most people including most Maori do not know about.

              I will let you have the last word Barry, but an interesting topic this is, and thank you.

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