OPINION: Christmas Day means different things to many people, but for most of us it remains the most special day of the year.
While that may seem self-evident, it is worth pausing to reflect on yesterday's celebrations. The traditional picture of a White Christmas is a northern hemisphere creation, designed for its consumption. Here in New Zealand it is well into summer and we have slowly shed our colonial emulation of a largely British-style celebration.
Fewer Kiwi families are these days having roast lamb, or turkey - an American addition to our menus - followed by plum pudding served with lashings of custard and cream. It's been a long transition, but one, given the different climates, that needed to happen.
Many are embracing a more fitting outdoor celebration, with the family barbecue the centre of the festivities. The caveat to that is the weather, which needs to do its part, even though the remnants of Cyclone Evan did its bit to dampen celebrations this year, if not our spirits.
For Christians, it is the most sacred day of the calendar, marking the birth of Jesus Christ. Church services are always well attended, with many who are not regular church-goers making their annual pilgrimage.
It is also timely to acknowledge that while we basically remain a Christian country, an influx of immigrants from many parts of the world in the last few decades has made us a more diverse country than ever before.
Many of them are not Christians. They celebrate their faith at different times of the year, but the reality is much of New Zealand's commercial world shuts down for a couple of weeks.
The exception of course is the tourism industry, and in more recent years, the explosion of retail activity which means outlets are packed with shoppers looking for a bargain, and those wanting to exchange the gift that wasn't quite what was wanted.
Traditionalists bemoan the commercialisation of Christmas, and while there is some truth in that, it is inevitable and hardly likely to change. The giving of gifts is an integral part of Christmas and for many the joy of giving is as good, if not better, than the act of receiving.
That's hardly new, but there can be few better rewards in life than watching the anticipation of a small child as he or she dutifully puts out a sock for Santa Claus to place a present in during the middle of the night.
Yesterday, the faces of thousands of Taranaki children would have lit up as they opened their presents - Santa always seems to know what to give them!
It is also a time to remember those less fortunate and do what we can to make this time a happy one for them.
With that in mind, remember those who may be on their own; the most precious gift you can give them may be your presence, rather than any present.
From everyone at the Taranaki Daily News, we hope you had a Merry Christmas and we wish you a safe and happy New Year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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