It’ll be a blue Christmas

So here we are on our sandbar in the Tasman Sea, and I’m dreaming of snow.

It’s true. After seven sub-tropical Christmases, I still get homesick for winter. Before the festivities are over, I‚Äòll drape an armload of rosemary twigs with aluminum icicles and a string of electric ice cubes. Then I’ll hit it with spray-on snow from the Dollar Store. How sad is that?

Here’s how it goes: Christmas starts with the big parade in Waiuku, and King Street is chock-a-block. Patrons spill out of the Kentish (licensed for beer since 1839) and tall Kiwi blokes wearing the local bloke-suit ‚Äî sunglasses, sleeveless T-shirts, shorts, rubber Wellies ‚Äî hold toddlers aloft so they can see.

Now comes the Sunset Coast Jazz band, jingling all the way. Next, the Fire Force with their Santa; sunglasses, shorts, red-hat-with-pompom. Santa sits under a plastic palm tree with his big yellow dog, who is wearing antlers. A boombox plays I’ll Be Home for Christmas. I feel positively weepy.

Many floats later, here comes Santa Claus, or as he’s known down here, Father Christmas. He’s skinny, his beard is neatly trimmed, and he’s wearing (are you ready?) sunglasses, shorts and Wellies. Seriously, I’m going to cry.

In front of the tiny perfect meat market, bangers are sizzling on a grill. A large Samoan woman with a red flower in her hair hands me a banger-in-bun. “Here you go, Luv. Meri Kirihimete”.

That’s Merry Christmas in Maori, but she’s from Samoa. Is she homesick too? I’m all teary-eyed.

On Christmas Eve, Father Claus arrives in the back of a red convertible, with Elvis singing Blue Christmas. Oh, sniffle.

The baby, the dog and the cat get a lot of stuff. They’re ecstatic, but in the kitchen, Bing Crosbie warbles White Christmas.

Breakfast is at Jayne’s, next door. Local blokes know this place as Jim’s, because Jim fixes their boats, but we all know who does the cooking. The barbie is fired up, eggs are frying, and there’s a crowd on the deck, including a few people we haven’t seen since last Christmas breakfast. Kisses all around. “Christmas again,” they moan. “Where did the time go?”

Everybody brings food. I contribute my Canadian Christmas cranberry marmalade. We’ve squeezed a trillion oranges from the trees down the road to go with sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, and Dougie, from down another road, has smoked two giant snappers. Somebody passes trays of mussels on the half shell, sprinkled with cilantro and minced red peppers. They look festive. I feel blue, like Elvis.

We head off to Christmas lunch, an hour away. Barbecued turkey, a massive ham. Salads and sushi, trifle and Pavlova. It’s all lovely, and there’ll be golf or swimming. No toboggans, no skating? It’s just not right.

Can’t stay. Christmas dinner is minutes down the road.

Everybody wears Santa hats. They light up and blink, or they play Silver Bells, sung by Alvin-the-chipmunk on speed. People without hats wear fuzzy antlers. It’s required. Here, where reindeer fear to tread, antlers are in.

The table is outside, under a shady awning. Christmas dinner: fish, three different roasts and every dessert known to man.

Eventually I waddle to the bar, where somebody makes a special drink, “Just for Canuckies,” he says. Advocaat and lime juice with crushed ice, in a frosted glass. He asks if I know what it’s called.

I don’t.

“It’s a snowball! Like in Canada, eh?”

Okay. Now I’ll cry.

Judy recently learned four words in Maori: Meri Kirihimete Kia Koutou — Merry Christmas everybody.