It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – southern hemisphere style!

Here in New Zealand the holiday season dawns with the first blooms of the Pohutukawa and Northen Rata trees, their bold red blooms create a swathe of red alongside roads, along the beaches and in gardens and parks across the country. In Wellington the blooms are accompanied by festive flags, fluttering on flag poles throughout the city.

Summertime and the festive season combine, as everyone winds down and knocks off work a little earlier, wrapping up loose ends and heading to the beach.

The longest day comes a few days before Christmas, people gather on beaches, cook around the BBQ, warm themselves around a driftwood fire when the sun sets after a long day in the sky.

Sightings of whales and dolphins increase on the local community pages and people gather with cameras and binoculars to watch them. Orca come into the shallow bays, hunting sting ray. Calm, warm waters entice people out onto the water and we make the most of the extra hours of daylight to take our paddle out in the bays near our home.

It’s a beautiful time of year, but so different to the one that my husband and I grew up knowing. Our children, having been born here, don’t feel the pang that we sometimes feel, for crisp winter days, twinkling lights and mulled wine around a country pub fire. It’s a time of year when our thoughts of the people we love are magnified. People far away are held close in our hearts and people who are no longer with us are held alive with our fond memories. A time for being both present and enjoying the moment, whilst also reflecting and cherishing the times we’ve shared with the people we love.

Christmas trees on display at Wellington Airport

This year our thoughts will be very much with our oldest offspring, now living and studying in Melbourne and spending Christmas Day with friends, and our family across the miles in the UK. Wising everyone a very happy and peaceful festive season.