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)