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Published: January 3rd 2016
I get so excited when the days go colder and the evenings darker. Autumn is my favourite time of year... I even like the rain. I absolutely LOVE Christmas. At this time of year my inner six year old comes right to the surface. I can't get enough of silly Christmas films, sweets, presents, decorations, etc. Even more importantly, it is a significant time for me spiritually as I am a practising Christian. I love Advent as the preparation for the season and I love glorifying God with the gusto, if not quality, with which I sing carols. Generally I love the opportunity to spend quality time with my family too.
This year I have found it strange though. Rather than getting colder and darker it got hotter and lighter. My body struggled with this. It was almost like I was upside down! There were few decorations, not many lights, not much music. I really struggled to get into a Southern Hemisphere Christmas; it just felt like there was no Christmas spirit around.
Things weren't helped when we went into Auckland's City Centre the first time. Here there was little to indicate the festive season. We actually went in
for a special evening market and screening of a Christmas film at the Wynyard Quarter (an ugly, semi-converted industrial-leisure area) but were completely disappointed by the lack of celebration.
Things improved somewhat on our next trip into the city. We took our last opportunity with a car to visit the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). We arrived just as the carol singers were packing up sadly, but we got to wander around the fairy-light bedecked village and catch a tram. It was a magical time which did start the Christmas Spirit smouldering a little. Sadly the mince pie and mulled wine we bought were truly horrible but at least the thought was there.
The next day we went to the church around the corner from us. Titirangi Baptist Church really are the most amazingly friendly people. We were welcomed to the service and invited to their community Christmas Eve meal. We were delighted to accept the invite, so grateful that we would have people to spend time with at Christmas.
Over the next few days we really made an effort to get into Christmas cheer. We put Christmas films on. We listened to Christmas songs. We
went shopping for lots of yummy food and a special meal for the big day. We made a gingerbread house and figures out of coloured icing sugar. We even wore silly hats.
By the time Christmas Eve came I was feeling a bit more jolly. I then woke up in the morning and developed a migraine. I don't get them often but over this festive season I've had quite a few. I spent the morning in bed and then was just well enough to go out for dinner. The church put on a wonderful spread for us and there were so many friendly people there. We had a thoroughly delightful evening. Afterwards we had a rousing carol service... I was beaming with delight. I realised I'd been focused on missing out on "my Christmas" and all the little elements that have made it so special over the past thirty years. Suddenly I realised that I'd been focusing on what I didn't have rather than what I did. Focusing on the rich blessings that we have been given made a world of difference.
During the meal, the man who had invited us, Ross, asked us if we'd like to
go for dinner with his family on Christmas Day. We were overjoyed to have a family to be with so we leapt at the chance... of course after leaving sufficient time to satisfy both our British reserve and to be assured we weren't imposing.
We walked home happy but tired. When we got home we prepared our last few Christmas things and then watched some more trashy films. It had just turned midnight and was time to go to bed when suddenly Lindsey shouted through to me that the house was flooded. At first I thought I must have misheard but then I saw that there was a a stream of water gushing out of the light fittings in the hallway. Everywhere we looked was drenched.
I reached out to turn the light on and got a gentle electric shock. I then ran around the house desperately looking for a stopcock, to no avail. We rang every number we had... again, to no avail. Lindsey then found a plumbing hotline and they told us how to turn the water off - in a dark box halfway up the drive. Following that, the house owner called us back from
Ireland and had a long chat. Eventually, around 2am, we had stopped the water and mopped up what we could. We collapsed into bed.
Of course, when we awoke there was no running water in the house but we did have a lovely time opening presents together. I was delighted with my main gift - a pen made from real giraffe bone! My secondary gift was enough sugar to put me in a diabetic coma... just as it should be. After we'd opened our presents we called my parents and then Lindsey's. Then it was time for church where we got to sing many more carols. After church we watched dreadful films on TV (New Zealand's Christmas schedule is worse than the UK's) until Ross came to pick is up. We took our gingerbread house and icing figures as a gift for the children. Being adopted into the family for the afternoon was great. There were four young children around which made it a really special time. We had the most amazing kiwi-feast of turkey and ham, potatoes and salad. This was then followed with chocolate dipped strawberries, fresh cherries and blueberry pavlova. The food was fantastic. Eventually we
had to leave and the family kindly let us fill up bottles of water so that we had something to drink in the evening.
When we got home we Skyped both of our families again, this time for their morning. We were with them as they opened their presents and we had a good chat. Following that it was time for us to go to bed after a very long full day.
It took another few days for us to get water back, which was a big relief. We just spent the time between Christmas and New Year relaxing as much as possible. I was struck down by another couple of migraines so I was happy to do almost nothing.
We were disappointed to not find any classical concerts or fireworks in Auckland for New Year. As we didn't have transport we just had a quiet one at home.
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