Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Christmas food in the Southern Hemisphere

Lynne Baab • Tuesday December 22 2020

Christmas food in the Southern Hemisphere

Our first Christmas in New Zealand, 2007, our son Mike came to visit and we had a great time travelling to Queenstown and exploring gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. Our second Christmas, 2008, I was really freaked out about having a Christmas with no family members, so I frantically tried to plan something fun. We rented a house in Te Anau for a week that Christmas, and we really did have a good time exploring the town and the shore of Lake Te Anau on the bicycles provided at the house. It took until our third Christmas here for me to start asking questions about traditional Christmas foods in the Southern Hemisphere.

We had, of course, noticed that December in New Zealand means fresh cherries, strawberries, and the beginning of the season for peaches, nectarines, and the best apricots I’ve ever had. In that third year here, I asked a friend what her favorite Christmas food was, and she said strawberry shortcake. For my Northern Hemisphere readers, just imagine for a few moments that strawberry shortcake could be an option for a Christmas food. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

For this post, I did a little Facebook survey of my Kiwi friends, asking what their favorite Christmas foods are. About two dozen people answered (some of them several times as they kept thinking of more favorite foods!), and they listed a fascinating array of foods. For meat, in descending order of frequency, they mentioned ham (both hot and cold), barbecue (no specific kind of meat), barbecued pigs in a blanket, turkey, lamb with mint sauce, pork belly, cold chicken, and salmon. For side dishes, they talked about cooked vegetables – new potatoes, new carrots, roasted potatoes, and fresh peas – and many kinds of salad, including potato salad, roasted vegetable salad, roasted pumpkin salad, and green salad (many mentions). Carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes were also favorites. Only one person, an American like me but who has lived here most of her adult life, mentioned stuffing, which would be at the top of my favorite side dishes for Christmas.

Fruit played a big role in the desserts listed. Many people mentioned fresh fruit – cherries, strawberries, apricots, raspberries, nectarines, and fresh fruit salad. Many mentioned fresh fruit desserts, such as pavlova with strawberries or jellies made with fresh fruit. For my Northern Hemisphere/American readers, jellies are what we call jello, and pavlova is a meringue, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, served with whipped cream and fruit. (Both New Zealand and Australia have claimed that pavlova originated in their country, but some food researchers say it comes from Germany.) Mince pies and Christmas cake (a rich fruitcake with icing) also made the list, along with chocolate mousse and chocolate truffles, which were (I think) the only desserts mentioned that do not include fruit in one form or another.

I was surprised by foods like specialty cheeses, craft beers, and crystallized ginger. And I was surprised by the number of people who mentioned that eating outside is central to their sense of Christmas traditions.

An amusing detail about Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is the red and green foods: strawberries, green salads with fresh tomatoes, and cherries. How fun to look at fresh and delicious food in the Christmas season and see Christmas colors.

Our journalist son, Mike, is passionate about health myths. He wrote a long article on obesity, “Everything you know about obesity is wrong,” which has had more readers than any other article in Huffington Post’s history. With co-host Aubrey Gordon, he has started a podcast on health myths, called Maintenance Phase. One of his central arguments is that fruits, vegetables, and exercise are key to health, so rather than constantly dieting and trying to be thin, we should try to promote health by increasing fruits, vegetables, and exercise. As I read the list of foods that I gleaned from my little Facebook research project, I see a whole lot of fruits and vegetables at Christmas, many more than I’ve seen on tables in the Northern Hemisphere. Sure, Christmas is just one day, and celebrating with rich foods is perfectly appropriate occasionally.

However, I do wonder what we can learn from the juxtaposition of all these vegetables and fruits with our celebration of the God who took on human flesh, and ate fruits, vegetables, and many other human foods alongside his disciples and friends. As I wrote last week, Christmas in a cold place, when we’re all bundled up, detaches us from our bodies, while being outdoors at Christmas helps us connect with the body God gave us and redeemed through Christ’s coming to earth in a human body. In the same way, fruit and vegetables at Christmas could perhaps connect us with the wonder of God’s creation, also redeemed in Christ, and the health of our own bodies.

Jesus our Redeemer, thank you for visiting us in human flesh. I pray for all my readers this challenging Christmas. Please give them moments of joy, knowing you are with us no matter what. Creator God, help us live in our bodies in a way that honors your creation of us and your visit to us in human flesh. Amen.

(Next week – Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere: Intentionality. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

Some previous Christmas posts you might enjoy:

Next post »« Previous post