Christmas in Christchurch

As we left Richmond, we were excited to begin our Christmas celebrations in Christchurch.  It was a six hour drive from Richmond and we spent the entire time listening and singing along to Christmas music. 

Our three kids entertaining themselves during the drive from Richmond to Christchurch

Road trip to Christchurch

We arrived at our townhome rental that afternoon, located just a half mile south of the city.  It was perfect location for walking into the city and we all enjoyed being back in a more urban setting for a little while.

After being in the car for so long, we all had “itchy legs” and needed to get out and explore the city.  In 2011, an earthquake struck the city and destroyed most of the city’s well-known Christ Church Cathedral.  As we headed towards town, we stopped to explore the temporary cathedral that had been built using cardboard tubes.  Inside, a children’s choir was practicing carols so we sat an enjoyed their singing before heading on. 

The town of Christchurch has a lovely square with shopping streets decorated for Christmas and a large tree in the center.  It was all “hustle and bustle” as groups were meeting for drinks and preparing for the holiday.  It had us all in the Christmas spirit! 

Our first stop though was to replace James’ squeaky shoes from the Nike store.  His shoes had somehow acquired a rubber duck squeak along the way.  I enjoyed always knowing he was near, but I think the sound had finally gotten to him, so it was time for a replacement.  He settled on a pair of boring black shoes, but he was overjoyed to be silent once again!

Our second day in the city, we went Christmas shopping and enjoyed decorating.  One of the kid’s favorite tradition is exchanging gifts among themselves. We found a $2 shop not far from our rental and spent the better part of our day helping the kids secretly purchase gifts from each other.  I had some last minute shopping to do as well so James kept the kids occupied with a claw machine they had found in the middle of the mall.  We took a detour through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens to admire the roses before it began to rain. 

Bingo enjoying one of the many roses at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Bingo at the Botanical Gardens

That afternoon we spent decorating our “tree” (the faux plant that was in the living room) and wrapping Christmas presents.  The energy and excitement the kids had was palpable, but exhausting for us parents at the same time!

That evening, we treated ourselves to an Italian dinner out at ChiChi Kitchen.  The small restaurant was tucked in the corner away from the main streets.  It was a homey setting with just one chef and two attentive waitresses.  We enjoyed one of the most authentic Italian dinners we had ever had, delighting in garlic bread, Bolognese, risotto, and xxx.  As the cherry on top, James and I came home and put the kids to bed and enjoyed a Hallmark-esk Christmas movie (IYKYK).

Finally!!! Christmas Eve!! Like every other parent, we got the question all day long – “when can we open presents?” The excitement was palpable!  Before we started our Christmas activities, though, we had one more thing to check off our New Zealand bucket list.  Desperate to see penguins before we left New Zealand, we found the International Antarctic Centre located near the airport.  The center is home to blue penguins and retired huskies. We bundled up in winter coats and experienced snow for Christmas in the arctic blast room. It had snow and would blow extreme wind so we could feel what it was like to travel to Antarctica! The kids also loved the 4-D movie of an Arctic expedition as well as hearing the stories of a local Maori who kept care of the half a dozen retired huskies. 

Our family testing out the Antarctic weather at the International Arctic Centre

Arctic blast at the International Arctic Centre

Late afternoon, we headed to St. Michael’s church for the 4pm children’s Christmas Eve service.  Knowing how busy our church at home is on Christmas Eve, we arrived thirty minutes early so we could get seats. That’s when we learned the church wasn’t even open! Five minutes before the service, the doors finally opened and about ten other families joined. The church was beautiful with stained glass windows and large wooden beams.  The service itself was just right for the children.  They had pieces of the nativity hidden around the church. The vicar told the story of Jesus’ birth and asked the kids to bring up the statues throughout the story.  All of our kids participated, even Bingo, which was a major accomplishment for our most reserved child!

Our family outside of St. Michael's on Christmas eve in Christchurch

St. Michael’s Church

Once the service was over, we had a pleasant stroll home with the kids eager to open presents. We came home to turn on our Christmas music, enjoy sparkling grape juice and wine, and a yummy steak dinner.  The kids had a blast opening the presents they purchased for each other and we all turned in for bed to prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus… as well as our 10-hour flight for the next day. We even managed to continue our tradition of James reading The Night before Christmas using hoopla.

James reading The Night before Christmas to the kids using Hoopla

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas reading

On Christmas day, the kids were thrilled to see Santa had arrived. He brought a fishing magazine, paper plates, and make up for them (all on their lists).  The kids each got some small things from us (only what could fit in their suitcases). And, James gave me what I had desired most – Fabulicious sherbet fizz candy!

Celebrating Christmas in Christchurch with our family and make-do Christmas tree

Christmas morning

We had a quick breakfast of cinnamon rolls, packed up and headed to the airport for our long flight to Singapore. But just before leaving, we sprayed the kids’ hair bright green (a gift from Bingo to Goose).

All three of our kids showing off their new green hair on Christmas in Christchurch

Green hair and ready to travel 10 hours to Singapore!

James and I had both been feeling quite homesick for the last couple of weeks in New Zealand.  The combination of the holidays and the familiar culture probably made us long for home even more.  We made lots of calls to our family and tried to find some familiarity in the town around us. But, nothing truly replaces the holidays at home!

Thankfully, the kids declared it as their “best Christmas ever” so that made us look at the experience in a different light!

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