This year was the first time I’ve ever spent a holiday season away from my family. Luckily for me however, some twist of fate brought me to Rob and Margot, and I spent both Christmas and New Years Eve at the Sherratt farm in Gisborne.
For Christmas, the Sherratts hosted Rob’s side of their extended family (his brother, wife, and their three grown children) in addition to two of their three daughters, their husbands, and each of their four children. Despite the rain that had been threatening for the past few weeks, it was a classic Kiwi Christmas: the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the wine was flowing, and the atmosphere was full of laughter and conversation. In many ways it resembled an American Thanksgiving, given the over-abundance of food and treats! They had the traditional Christmas ham and ginger bread house too, but of course it wouldn’t be a Kiwi Christmas without lamb, Christmas crackers, dips in the swimming pool, and of course the odd game of tennis on their own personal court. I even managed to get sunburned (which has become a bit of a pattern here, thanks to the super-powered sun in this part of the world)! The alcohol- and heat-induced dehydration was well worth it that day.
In comparison, my New Year’s Eve was far more laid back and uneventful. I had originally planned to be hiking the 4-day Tongariro Northern Circuit on the big night (the same place where they filmed Mount Doom, Mordor, and Ithilien for Lord of the Rings). But instead, a cyclone from Oz (Australia) blew in at the last minute and blanketed the entire country in torrential rain, effectively ending that plan. Then I hoped to attend Rhythm and Vines, a hugely famous annual music festival held in Gisborne every year. Over 25,000 young people came from all over New Zealand to camp out and see acts like Grandmaster Flash, Pendulum, Architecture in Helsinki, Cut Copy, Kids of 88, and the Pikachunes perform! I was even prepared to pay the $170 price tag for a NYE ticket (which didn’t include a place to park or sleep), just so I could have experienced the infamous festival for myself. Unfortunately, the rain also reached Gizzy at exactly the same time, and the images of flooded campsites and drowned-rat-esque hipster kids didn’t quite appeal to me when it came down to it. So instead I spent the night with Rob and Marg, drinking a beer and eating homemade macaroni and cheese while we watched the Travel Channel and – after they went to bad – ringing in the New Year by staying up to watch Superbad. It might not have been the most exciting NYE ever, but it wasn’t a bad one. And if the saying ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’ is correct, perhaps the opposite will be true of this year! I’ll just have to wait and see :)