Meri Kirihimete

With Christmas only a few days away I have been thinking about the vernacular Christmas. What is it about how New Zealanders celebrate Christmas that differentiates us from the rest of the world?

I know in our family there are no presents or champagne breakfast until we’ve had our Christmas swim. Fresh fish, scallops and lamb with strawberries for dessert trump the traditional glazed ham and Christmas pudding. What makes Christmas vernacular for you?

The very first Christmas celebrated in Aotearoa was in 1642 by Abel Tasman and his crew. The second in 1769 was during James Cook’s first expedition to New Zealand. Goose pie was on the menu for the Endeavour crew but with a lack of geese they used gannets*. You can read more about this on NZ History’s website and can even get the recipe for the goose version of the dish should you fancy!

New Zealand has its own collection of Christmas Carols, like ‘A pukeko in a ponga tree’, ‘Marie te po’ and ‘Sticky Beak the kiwi’. Go on, turn up the volume and have a listen!

What else constitutes a New Zealand Christmas for you? Family, friends, BBQ’s, icecream, strawberries, sun tan lotion, surfing, Jesus, pavlova, camping, church, singing, beer, carols, presents, ham, champagne breakfasts, stockings, mince tarts, Santa, cards, pohutakawa trees…..

We wish you a very MERRY VERNACULAR CHRISTMAS from the Museum of the Vernacular. Please stay safe on the roads and in the sun this festive season.

merry vernacular christmas

*the Depot does not endorse the use of gannets in goose pie!


‘Gannet pie for Christmas’, URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Aug-2012

”Sticky Beak the kiwi’ song’, URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 30-Aug-2012