Christmas in Europe


Our Super Mum Susan is currently in Europe with her boys on the “trip of a lifetime”.¬† Over the next four months we will follow Susan on her family adventure.

For those of you who are first timers to the Kiwi Families website, my last two articles have been snapshots of our family’s great adventure to Europe.¬†Christmas is just around the corner and rather reluctantly (because it does sound rather extravagant) I have to explain that our family will be spending Christmas in Paris!

Hard to believe that we have been away for two months already and life is very different from what we would currently be doing in NZ – no school break ups, no barbecues or first summer swims at the beach. Although I must admit the boys did take a winter’s dip in the Mediterranean when we were in the south of France a week ago.

Everywhere we venture now is starting to gear up for Xmas Р the street lights and decorations have gone up and the shop windows are adorned with the most beautiful Christmas decorations I have ever seen. Somehow Christmas seems much more authentic in Europe.

Christmas in a foreign country does pose some dilemmas, especially as I figure our youngest (without wanting to readily admit it) still believes in Santa Claus. It may be that he figures he might get a bigger stash of goodies if he does.

So far all of our trip has been made within a very tight budget and my husband John (commonly known as the Fiscal Fuhrer) has ensured that we have stuck to it!

Unfortunately though, last week I filled the rental car up with petrol instead of diesel.¬†¬†It was a combination of my poor French and the petrol attendant’s even worse English, but to cut a long story short we had to be towed from the motorway on a tow truck (with all of us sitting in the car) to the nearest village. Everything was shut for the weekend so we had to stay in a motel for two nights in the middle of nowhere and at great expense. So needless to say the budget was blown big time and I am lucky I am even allowed out to use the internet.

I figure Christmas won’t be the same as back home – for¬†a start we will be staying in an apartment that is 25 meters square and with only a microwave that couldn’t possibly accommodate a turkey.¬†¬†I quite fancied a picnic under the Eiffel Tower but it is about 2 degrees in Paris at the moment and not likely to get warmer; so it may require some real innovation to ensure that¬†this¬†is a Christmas to remember.

I am looking forward to attending Christmas mass at the Notredame along with all the other millions, because for me the real meaning of Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth.¬† I have fond childhood memories of Christmas. I was the youngest of seven children and the only girl – by the time I was born my older brothers had already left home or were in the process, so for me Christmas was generally the only time of the year aside from 21sts or other family gatherings that I could guarantee we would all be together. Like most males, my brothers aren’t too good in the shopping department, but they managed to always spoil their only sister – even if it meant nobody else got anything.

Given the size of our family and all the other relatives who congregated to Puriri Cres in Rotorua, Christmas was on a grand scale and despite my mother’s protests about the amount of work,¬†I knew she loved having her family around her for those special few days.

She spent most, if not all, of the time in the kitchen it seemed Рcooking from dawn to dusk; always trying to perfect her pavlovas, which she swore were the best in NZ, and no-one was brave enough to disagree! As time progressed daughters-in-law arrived and I was peeved that suddenly I had to share my brothers with other families. Then grandchildren arrived and I was no longer the youngest or the most spoiled Рit was a tough adjustment!

There was copious amounts of eating and drinking, lots of backyard cricket where the sibling rivalries were renewed, and we had late night card sessions on Christmas and Boxing Day nights which always managed to end in disaster.

Those family Christmases sadly no longer take place Рas our own families grew it was harder to get everyone together, and when both my parents passed away it was like the glue that kept us all together was no longer there.

As much as¬†I love Christmas, especially for the children’s sake, it has undoubtedly become a commercial orgy of excess.¬†The most interesting aspect of our time away is that our children have realised that there is not the same budget¬†to spend on all their desires so to date there has been no hints, no nagging, no demands and perhaps a real appreciation that for them everyday has been like Christmas.

I figure that no matter what happens (and I can guarantee that something will!) it will be a Christmas to remember.


Dame Susan Devoy

Dame Susan Devoy is New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner, and a World Open champion squash player. She's the former CEO of Sport Bay of Plenty and super-mum to four boys.

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Categorised: Grown Ups

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