A Queenstown Christmas

Christmas Day in New Zealand is a lot different from our Christmas Day in the United States. We were surprised to learn that the shoppers' bus from our hotel to downtown Queenstown ran its regular routes and several of the stores were open.

Thinking that it would be summer in New Zealand, all I had with me was a light jacket. It was unseasonably cool, probably because Queenstown is so far south, so the weather there wasn't any different from Christmas Day at home in Birmingham. The first stop I made was at a souvenir shop to purchase a sweatshirt, knowing I could wear it when I got home.

We had Christmas dinner at The Colonel's Homestead Restaurant at Walter Peak High Country Farm (pictured right). This is a working farm located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu which offers farm excursions as well as meals.

We were transported to the farm on the TSS Earnslaw, a steamboat built in 1912. The TSS Earnslaw had originally been a cargo ship as well as a livestock carrier, passenger transporter, and pleasure steamer. The ship's engines are still the same as they were in 1912 and burn one ton of coal per hour.

After we got underway, Santa Claus came around and offered everyone lollies. This Santa Claus was dressed in a red suit made out of some type of light polyester material instead of the wool suit that people in the northern hemisphere are accustomed to seeing. When we asked Santa about his suit, he replied that the suit he had on was hot enough without being wool. His boots looked like rain boots instead of the heavy boots that we identify with Santa. He didn't look like our version of an authentic Santa at all.

On the return trip, everyone gathered on the upper deck to sing songs. We were amazed that one of the songs was You Are My Sunshine, written by Jimmie Davis, former governor of Louisiana, Red River Valley, and Oh, Susannah, as well as traditional New Zealand and Australian music.

When we sat down at the table, we noticed a gift at each place. Opening the gift we found a Christmas cracker which made a popping noise as we pulled a cord. Also included was a tissue paper crown, a small animal, and a piece of paper with very unfunny jokes on it. We learned that this was an English Christmas custom to celebrate the happiness of the holiday season.

The dinner consisted of the three traditional English meats of turkey, ham, and lamb. Instead of dressing to go with the turkey, there was a relish sauce. The desserts were really magnificent including plum pudding with brandy sauce, Christmas boiled pudding, a chocolate yule log, traditional pavlova, and homemade Christmas cake (which is the English term for fruitcake). One vegetable that I tried and didn't like was fresh pumpkin which is very different from the pumpkin that we use in pies in the United States. It has a very tart taste. It was interesting to see summertime vegetables on a Christmas Day menu.

We ate so much that when we arrived back in Queenstown, we decided to walk the 4 kilometers back to the hotel instead of taking the shuttle.

Return to "A Holiday to Remember".