There’s no sipping Mulled Wine, no snowflakes to admire, no eggnog and no fireplaces with hot chocolate and marshmallows. But there are christmas trees, gorgeous lights and a whole other kind of celebration. Unlike the cold countries where everyone goes all-out Christmas overboard, Christmas is a solid family affair- a cozy one with little ado.
While trees are put up in different public spots, it’s the cities that have all the Christmas festivities out on display. If you’re traveling around the holidays, here are a few things to look forward to in Auckland:
1. Auckland Santa Parade:
Truly one of a kind with huge inflated balloons, live performances by kids in different costumes (some dressed as elves, others as angels) and a huge procession of drummers, dancers and other artists that follow. It’s always sponsored by the clothing and cosmetics brand- Farmers- and all of Auckland takes to the streets to watch. It usually happens in the first week of December, much before the christmas festivities truly set in, but in some way kickstarting the holiday season for the Kiwis. You can read more on the Auckland Farmers Christmas Parade website. There’s no ticket!
2. Christmas in the Park:
A jolly little carnival sponsored by Cola Cola, with live performances, food stalls selling classic carnival food: chicken nuggets, fries, candy and corndogs; a young audience grooving to the music and eagerly counting down to the lighting of a large christmas tree. It’s followed by a long line of fireworks lighting up the Auckland sky. Christmas in the Park takes place at the Auckland Domain, a huge park in front of a lit up Auckland Museum (in Christmas colours). It’s popular among the residents, and is extremely well-organised, with buses running to Brittomart (Queen’s Street) every few minutes, roads blocked for pedestrians and over 100 toilet cubicles set up for the attendees. An easy going crowd brings their own set of chairs and rugs to sit on or simply parks themselves on the freshly cut grass. There’s no ticket, and the event starts in the afternoon but gets busy around 7:00 pm. It ends at 10:00 pm with a few crowd favourites and current chart topping songs with the sweet smell of summer in the air! I would recommend taking the time out to experience this little celebration with the Aucklanders. There’s no ticket- it’s completely free.
3. Lights on Franklin Road:
This is a concept so unique, I had a tough time dealing with just how fabulous it is. Of all Christmas festivities, this one Auckland does best- and one I would recommend going for. It’s 100% free, and here’s what happens- The residents’ association at Franklin Road (a residential area) requires its residents to put up fancy Christmas lights every year. When I heard it, I didn’t expect much from it. But to say my mind was blown would be a gross understatement. Each house had outdone the one before it. There were massive reindeers made of lights, gardens covered in lit up gnomes and snowmen and tiny kiwis on sledges. There were young children performing christmas carols to collect a few bucks for school trips and pocket money, and there was an enthusiastic crowd admiring these houses. The house owners leave the lights on every year for the amusement of an audience of over 500 people every evening, simply walking past their houses and clicking pictures. A unique concept, and such an endearing thought- to be able to share christmas with a bunch of strangers in your own little way. Some residents had locked up their houses and left town on vacation, leaving the lights on with timers for people to enjoy. Check out these pictures of some of my favourite displays:
4. Motat’s Christmas display and Movies in the Park:
Okay, I cheated a little. This one isn’t free, but picture a transport and technology museum, with its vintage trains donning christmas lights. That’s the subtle magic of Motat’s christmas light display. They come up with different things to do each year, and depending on the weather often have Christmas movies in the park. Motat puts up a movie schedule on their website, and these movies are screened out in the open under christmas lights and warm blankets (it may be summer but its always windy in New Zealand).
5. The Christmas shopping:
It may not be an activity, but it can’t be ignored. There are charms for christmas trees in every corner of the super marts. 2 Dollar stores have Santa mugs, decorations and tiny keepsakes and decorations. Besides huge Christmas sales, there’s also the BIG boxing day sale on 26th December, with stores offering 60-70% off on almost everything. Naturally, there are long queues and large crowds but if you’re a determined shopper, mark this day in your calendars. Most malls offer free christmas gift wrapping- irrespective of whether you’ve purchased from the mall or not. These packing booths are run by non-profit organisations that accept 5 or 10 dollar donations that are completely voluntary. But everything is shut on Christmas day- including the big brands and grocery stores. Don’t leave any last minute shopping before