Australia, Community, History & Traditions

Christmas Traditions Around the World


Almost every tourist to Copenhagen will visit the Tivoli Gardens, but if you want to experience an authentic Danish Christmas, you have to be around on December 24, as that is when the Danes and many Scandinavians, and indeed Europeans, celebrate Christmas. Danes might stay at home making and preparing marzipan Christmas sweets, and in the evening, celebrate Christmas with a hearty meal with family or friends, before dancing around the Christmas tree singing carols, (in danish of course), and finish the night playing Christmas games. It is all about creating Christmas Hygge!


The focus in Norway at Christmas, or Jul, is on food and lots of it. From the Rice porridge, or Rommegrot to seven types of Christmas biscuits or cookies, the Norwegian are into it. Trolls, Nisse and all.

Germany and Europe

Over in Deutscheland, and many parts of Europe, you might attend a Christmas market. It is almost compulsory and who wouldn’t want to, when there is delicous Christmas food, a festive atmosphere and Gluhwein in the offering.



The Swiss have long trumpet like horns that are played in the streets at Christmas time. In Lucerne, they also have enormous cow bells which are held in front of them and are rung, in a rhythmic march, whilst parading down the city streets. A very special Swiss Christmas.


Over in Austria, you might meet fairy tale characters in the streets of the Old Towns, such as these in Innsbruck.

However, the vibe is a little different in Austria and southern European areas like Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia or Austria, who have the tradition of the Krampus. Based on old Germanic folklore, Austrians, (not to be confused with Australians, who have the kangaroos), start celebrating Christmas on Krampusnacht,December 5. That is when Santa’s evil twin, the “Krampus”, a devil like figure with horns, roams the streets with his evil accomplice, brandishing a whip and stick to threaten naughty children who’ve misbehaved throughout the year. 

Austrian Christmas - Krampus
The Krampus

Traditionally, young men dress up with the hairy ‘Krampus’ masks and walk the streets creating havoc, hitting people with sticks. That’s Austria. Luckily, when I met the Krampus, he was in a good mood and without his heinous accomplice!


Australia, the ones with the kangaroos and Crocodiles, (not Austria), has its own version of fun in the sun at Christmas time, because it is anything but cool, “down under.” Christmas Day, December 25 is often celebrated at teh beach.

Every shopping centres hosts Santa, where he sits posed on his gold throne, surrounded by fake snow, with children atop his knee, listening intently to wishes for Christmas. It is highly confusing for the smarter kids, as they can’t work out how Santa is able to be at every shopping centre at the same time!

Christmas gift

Often there is the opportunity for official Santa photos, and now it is popular for beloved pets get involved too. The Schnauzer seemed to enjoy the experience this year.

New Zealand

Down in New Zealand, you will most likely have a Christmas tree (usually an artificial one), or more than one, if you are as passionate about Christmas as this kiwi.

New Zealand Christmas

This Lady of the above house in Wellington loves decorating, makes all her own decorations and has no less than 15 trees in her house. It is always tastefully done, albeit a tad obsessive, but in the nicest possible way! Dianne collects a gold coin donation from visitors and the money raised is donated to charity, so there is method in her madness.


Some of her trees were really creative. She had even created seasonal trees – in tones of Spring, Summer Autumn and well, winter of course.


At the opposite ends of the world, in the far north of Sweden, you might be building a snowman or sliding down a snowy slope on a mattress at Christmastime. Or digging out your car, if the snow is heavy!



In Eastern parts of the world such as Japan, you might not really celebrate Christmas at all and instead, focus on the bigger celebration of New Year. Mind you, the growing tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on December 25, is oddly popular, for some reason. I would most likely starve if I spent Christmas day there.

You may even be someone who dislikes the hype around Christmas and prefer not to celebrate and that is okay too. Wherever you are and how ever you choose to see Christmastime, may you find Joy in your day and peace in your heart.

God jul

Griss Godt

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Nollaig Shona

Wesołych Świąt

Manuia le Kirisimasi


Glædelig jul

Merry Christmas

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas

from Amanda at Something to Ponder About

stpa logo

Walking Around in Whitby

Named after British explorer, James Cook, this place is as far from its namesake town locality as it could possibly be, so what is there to see in Whitby?

Join me for a walk and see….


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A suburban street in Whitby


You may have read about my previous visits to New Zealand, but it is Whitby, a suburban area, located north of the capital, Wellington, that featured on our walk today.

There is strong evidence of middle income suburban New Zealand, here, but Whitby also offers some unique but lesser known features, which I was to discover on a family walk among its well manicured streets.


Coniferous trees relish a cool, temperate climate, quite different to the sub-tropical flora my kin might see at home.

Seeing them along dotted along the littoral fringe and stream that bisects this town, our minds filled with thoughts of hobbits and elves and ‘Middle Earth.’

Well, we were after all, in New Zealand!

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The path, to the right, next to the tunnel of trees, along the littoral fringe.



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The flowers alone are worth walking miles for….


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Plants like the Protea, above, and this spectacular hydrangea bush, that I struggle to grow back home, relish the cooler, more wet humid climate and seem to grow like weeds!



What is that definition of a weed?

Just a plant in the wrong place!


But it is not all trees and flowers we spotted on our walk.


The Kiwis are not at all overly formal in their manner, their sense of humour being evident in this unusual garden statue.


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Who wants a regular garden gnome, anyway?


ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard


Besides being named after the British birthplace of explorer, Captain James Cook, the attraction about Whitby for me, was found in the unique, natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.

Visible from practically any street in this locality, it is easy to be mesmerized by the distant mountains which remind me of convolutions of a green Giant’s velvet brain.

Our walk encompasses a stop at a flat-topped Spinnaker Summit Lookout, at which the mandatory photo stop was required.


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The mountains of green velour on the far side of the lake look as if a giant laid down a carpet and then slept on it, failing to smooth the grassy covers when he arose from his slumber.

One feels like you could rub your hand over them just to feel their soft, velour texture.

I have never seen hills like this anywhere else in the world.

It is said that New Zealand has some similarities to Norway, well, maybe not in this area…..


A backdrop of mountains and hills like the convolutions of a green velvet brain


A walk around a suburban area often gives one a feel for the personalities who live there.

The diversity of boutique letter box designs was a delightful recurring theme in Whitby.


letter box


I would like one of these letter boxes!

letter box

Walking further from the lake and Summit lookout, we spotted several Tui birds relishing the blossoms, hunting, as they were for some food.

This species of honey-eater is not under any threat, having adapted well to the urban environment in the North Island.

Wiki states that apparently the early European colonists called it the Parson Bird but, as with many New Zealand birds, the Maori name ‘Tui’ is now the common name.

[Source: Wikipedia]





After a good hour of strolling the suburban streets, Miss H and the young ‘uns were getting that glazed look in their eyes that said,” I’m soo bored” – you know the one that teens do so well, thus, a extension to our walk was quickly made to Adrenalin Forest, Porirua, on the outer edges of Whitby!!! Now it was the kid’s turn to dictate the direction of the “walk,” as the “Adrenaline forest” is an aerial obstacle course consisting of flying fox, high ropes, climbing through barrels, nets and steps, suspended above the ground, which makes for a fun and energetic few hours. The kids are harnessed with two dual locks, so it is impossible to remove both clamps from the harness at the one time, making it a perfectly safe activity, even for the most reckless individual. Furthermore, the attendants give full instructions and a good dose of practice on ground level before starting the course.

Adrenalin Forest


I venture to say it is a kids only activity, as I didn’t see any adults participating in the course.


The parents/carers were all down on terra firma, shouting encouraging thoughts above, who were hanging by the harness up to 60 feet above them in the tree tops.

The course becomes incrementally more difficult, and Miss 11 who was part of our group, piked out at Level 3, and had to be ‘rescued’ – which meant that an attendant had to climb a ladder and disengage you from the course.

Miss 13 and 16 kept going till Level 4, but were exhausted afterwards. A real endurance activity for some.

The Adrenalin forest is loads of fun if you are ever in Wellington, or Whitby surrounds.

Kids have exercise, fun, learn new skills, conquer their fears and the bonus is they are sun safe (in the shade) and cannot check mobile devices whilst they are up there!! I noted there was limited seating, (and nowhere to purchase refreshments) for adults who are watching, and the constant looking upwards was a posture most adults are not used to.

Like me, I suspect most of them could use a neck brace of sorts afterwards.

Something the young 19 year old me would not have to Ponder About

New Zealand
Restless Jo
Monday Walks

Sharing to Jo’s Monday Walks

New Zealand, mountain, joy, happy, achievement
Architecture, Community

Te Papa, Beach and Wind Walk

Around this time 6 years ago I was walking in Wellington, New Zealand

A light shower greeted me this morning so the day started with an indoor activity hunting down a friend’s family history at the library. To our surprise we found a connection with our own family… is everyone in New Zealand related in some way or another to a resident in the Hawkes Bay area????

Wellington promised to live up to Melbourne’s weather reputation of having four seasons in one day… becuse pretty soon the sun came out, allowing us to have a picnic lunch, after walking along the beach. The children had a great time and I saw the harbour at its best. It really is a huge natural harbour surrounding by breathtaking mountains and forest.

The old part of Wellington has some beautiful houses:many perched on the absolute top of the ridge, and especially around Oriental Bay, one could be forgiven for thinking you were in San Francisco.

After all, New Zealand is on a fault line, like San Francisco, has a cable car like San Francisco, has houses perched on perilously steep cliffs and mountain sides, ending in a beautiful harbour, and lots of wooden architecture from the early 20’s – 30’s like San Francisco, and then of course, there is the earthquake issue.

New Zealand had around 15,000 earthquakes each year, mostly in the North Island, but very few are felt. The town centre of Napier, in Hawkes Bay, was completed flattened by a quake in 1931 and you’ll find footage of this in the Te Papa Museum, central Wellington, which was my next destination on this walk.

An earthquake ‘house’ gives a simulation of what it was like to be in Napier on that fateful day. The terrible rumbling, the premptive the shaking and rattling, and sudden movement underfoot is actually terrifying. Really gives you an idea , of what it is like to live through such an event, without experiencing the danger.

The Maori exhibits are also interesting and one can sit inside a Maori meeting house where they occasionally hold council meetings…. it is quite dark inside and has an atmosphere of solemnity and seriousness.

If you visit this museum, don’t forget to see the Kiwi and, the Giant Squid, both preserved and dead of course. Children are well catered for too, with dress ups, games, activities and play areas that allow for interactive learning.

Travelling further through the main centre of Wellington, we took a ride on the cable car to the small museum at the top of the hill. The museum itself, outlines the history of the Cable car, has some Vintage cars and you can also see the cable mechanism at work.

On our return to the city, we paused at the fully timbered church where my cousin’s parents were married. Truly unique I think in New Zealand’s church architecture. Our walk continued following a short car ride (sorry Jo, I cheated),  to the wind turbines at the Karori Reserve. Some energetic Wellingtonians were actually jogging the whole way up the narrow 5 kilometre road, and this in very windy conditions, one of the reasons I declined the offer to walk the 5 kilometres. Even then, we almost got blown away when we stepped out of the car at the top!

The wind turbine was built with Danish technology. While being able to sustain winds of up to 200km/h, it shuts down when the winds goes over 80km/h.

Wind power is something many cities are now pondering about.

Linking to RestlessJo and her Monday walks


Interislander Ferry ride from wait, Wellington….. Travel Tuesday

The Interislander Ferry from Wellington to Picton, New Zealand, takes you from the bottom of the North Island to the tip of the South across New Zealand’s Cook Strait,and is notorious for its rough crossings, and this one did not disappoint.

We boarded the Arahura Interislander Ferry, at Lambton Quay, in Wellington, at around 11am. Every now and then, I stole a glance at the sky and back at the sea as both were beginning to look pretty forboding….

Ten minutes out, it was definitely getting rougher and the wind was picking up. As if he was reading my thoughts, the Captain tersely announced over the PA system,  that there was, “a bit of wind expected, once we head out into Cook Strait.” “In fact,” he said “it was blowing a gale and the waves were around 8-9 metres high!
What the hell?

On a boat in a gale with a young child. This was a new experience for me! Thinking that I should never have watched the Titanic movie, I craned my neck to check the status and location of those lifeboats again. Just in case they might be needed.

The crew got busy handing around paper vomit bags and ice chips, as food, drinks and trays started to fall off the cafeteria shelves around us, making several loud metallic crashes. This was serious!

Apparently ice chips are a help if you are feeling seasick or nauseous, so Miss 10 had her face buried in a cup of these for the next 45 minutes without respite. I felt ok as long as I watched the land, and sucked on an ice chip when the big crashes came.

Seas were now getting rougher, and rough and the waves repeatedly crashing over the bow.. and this was no small boat. Time to head up to the back of the boat and stick our heads out into the wind, trying not to get our fingers jammed in the heavy doors as they slammed shut, when the boat listed this way and that.

Going up several flights of stairs holding a backpack, that is swinging violently from side to side across my back, in one hand and a child in the other, meant there was no way to hold on to a hand rail, so I had to rely on my sense of balance to make any progress at all. Am I going to survive this? What was the name of that ferry that sunk that time – the Wahine? Would this boat be another Wahine?

After reaching the back row of seats, I thought perhaps I should phone my other half, back in Australia, to tell him in the conditions in which I was sailing, in case I didn’t make it and guess what? He just chuckled in response! “At least you have phone coverage he said! ” Clearly no sympathy was coming from that quarter….

Ferry ride from serenity of Queen Charlotte Sound.

Now, I know what you are thinking – could this be that I was just an over-reacting ‘landlubber? In my defense, many of the passengers, including some kiwis, who had been seen entering the bar as we set sail, suddenly re-appeared on the rear deck, joining those of us gripping their cups of ice-chips, therefore, my story can not be dismissed as ‘first-timer’ exaggeration.

Here is the video of a similar crossing:

Minutes later, I sensed a turning point has been reached, and the seas appeared to calm slightly, so I thought I’d snap the picture you see above the video, before the sea completely calms, if that ever does happen and the boat stops the listing.

But what awaited ahead of us was nothing less than mind-blowing!

To be continued on Tuesday next week. Check out other travel posts here

Something to Ponder About


One Trip EVERY Month Challenge – Eastbourne, New Zealand

Having just had a 6.2 magnitude earthquake, I am glad that I visited New Zealand before New year and not after. Technically, within the last month thus meeting the requirements of East of Malaga’s New Challenge: One Trip Every Month, which you will find here. January – Eastbourne ferry from Wellington -a 30 minute trip across Port Nicholson to Days Bay where kayaks can be hired and an assortment of cafes/shops/galleries can be found.

Oriental Bay


Wellington Harbour: Your Departure point

Walk along the esplanade, passing Te Papa museum until you come to the pontoon at Lambton Quay with the blue catamaran “The Dominion Post” ferry that will take you to Eastbourne.Eastbourne1New Zealand 20136

Buy your ticket at the EastWestferry office opposite and cast your eyes back over Wellington city proper across the brilliantly turquoise  wet stuff. One way ticket costs $11.00 for adults.

EAstbourne New Zealand

Stay on board while the ferry docks at Matui/Somes island to pick up passengers.Once a prisoner-of-war camp and quarantine station, the Department of Conservation now manages the island and the walking trails Note: the tiny island could make a great destination for a day trip with a picnic basket, (no retail facilities), exploring the flora, the lighthouse and the bird-life that makes this place its home.

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Final approaches to Days bay and disembark at Eastbourne jetty, which doubles as a dive platform for teenagers!


Upon disembarkation from the ferry, enjoy an ice-cream (Hokey Pokey is a must), or if the weather turns inclement, a hot chocolate from ‘Chocolate daze’ Cafe is strongly advised!

Eastbourne A 10 minute walk from Days Bay is a trendy assortment of shopping. But a walk along the beach is free!

There is plenty of time to purchase a special gift or some souvenirs at Van Helden Gallery, before the return home.

Van Helen Gallery, Eastbourne, New Zealand

If you wish to take an alternative route home, there is only one road in and out, and this can get pretty freaky in high tides or storms. And no guard rails in case you wander off the road. Beware!


Eastbourne, North Island, New Zealand – One trip every month challenge – January. The destination for february is something to ponder about.

One trip EVERY month


New Zealand – Oriental Bay

It is said that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and really, you can’t. The beach and harbour-side is so accessible from the city, it is ridiculous.

Croc Bikes at Oriental Bay, Wellington, New Zealand New Zealand 2013

Oriental Bay, Wellington

You can choose to stroll along the 3 km or so promenade, relax by sitting on the beach wall and eating ice cream, or perhaps fish n chips on the beach, or as I did, ride a ‘Croc Bike’. I know these bikes as ‘Silly Cycles’ in Surfers Paradise, Australia, but basically it is a fun way to ride around with a few people, under a shady canopy along the promenade area. A family of islanders/maori with flowery shirts crammed 8 people in a croc bike and crossed our path singing and playing guitar, making for a very festive “tropical mood”. Young kids made the most of the good swimming conditions, by leaping off the bow of  the floating seafood restaurant (converted ship), yet for me it was too chilly to take a dip.


Oriental bay also has some stunning houses overlooking the water, and reminiscent of what I have seen of San Francisco, on TV.. (never having been there, of course)

Day 3 Te Papa, Beach and Wind energy

Day 3 Te Papa, Beach and Wind energy

I particularly liked the scenic nature of the boating sheds, or at least I think that is what they were.

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The croc bikes took us to the old ? lighthouse near the ferry to Eastbourne, but that was our destination the next day. So, we turned around and later walked back to the city along Kent Terrace, and the main street of Wellington, along which, I believe, all the Hollywood/Wellywood celebrities walked the red carpet to the Art Deco themed Embassy theatre, for the premiere of The Hobbit, and previously, The Lord of the Rings movies..

Embassy theatre, New ZealandStrange art installations along the Wellywood street

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Well, it is Wellywood, so they capitalize on it…

I have yet to see The Hobbit….

Something to ponder about one day.

Previous New Zealand post: Wandering Around Whitby


New Zealand – Wandering around Whitby

What is there to do in Whitby?

Following on from my last post about New Zealand, and the three divisions of Whitby, which you can find here, it was quite apparent this stronghold of middle income suburbia was not without other attractions, mostly for me, it was found in the natural beauty of the area.

trees Coniferous trees relish the temperate climate  and I thinking hobbits and Frodo, when I walked along the tunnel of trees this morning.

 letter box

The cool climate trees were a delight, as were the range of boutique letter box designs, I found to be a recurring theme.

letter boxI want one of these letter boxes!

letter boxThe ubiquitous Tui birds were relishing the blossoms, hunting for some food. This species is not threatened and is found predominantly in the North Island of New Zealand.

TuiWiki tells us: The Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is an endemic passerine bird of New Zealand. It is one of the largest members of the diverse honeyeater family. The name tui is from the Maori language name tūī and is the species’ formal common name. The plural is tuis, or tui following Māori usage. The early European colonists called it the Parson Bird[2] but, as with many New Zealand birds, the Maori name tui is now the common name and the English-language term is archaic.[

Tui  [Source: Wikipedia]

Apart from nature walks and bird spotting, what else can you do in Whitby?


After a day or so settling in and shopping, Miss H and the young ‘uns were getting that glazed look in their eyes that said,” I’m soo bored” as teens do so well, thus, a trip to Adrenalin Forest, Porirua, (next door to Whitby), was called for, and quickly!!!

Adrenalin forest is an aerial obstacle course consisting of flying fox, high ropes, climbing ropes through barrels, nets and steps, which makes for a fun and energetic few hours.The kids are harnessed in and the harnesses have two dual carbiner locks, so it is impossible for participants to remove both clamps from the harness at the one time, making it perfectly safe for even the most reckless individual. Furthermore, the attendants give full instructions and a good dose of practice on ground level to all, prior to starting the course.

  Adrenalin Forest

I venture to say it is a kids only activity, as I did not see any adults participating in the course. Wonder why? They were all down on terra firma, shouting encouraging thoughts to their loved ones, hanging by the harness up to 60 feet above them in the tree tops.

The course becomes incrementally more difficult, and Miss 11 piked out at Level 3, and had to be ‘rescued’ – which meant that an attendant had to climb a ladder and disengage you from the course. Miss 13 and 16 kept going till Level 4, but were exhausted afterwards. A real endurance activity for some.ImageAdrenalin forest is loads of fun if you are ever in Wellington, or Whitby surrounds. Kids have exercise, fun, learn new skills, conquer their fears and the bonus is they are sun safe (in the shade) and cannot check mobile phone/ipads whilst they are up there!! I noted there was limited seating, (and nowhere to purchase refreshments) for adults who are watching, and I suspect most of them could use a neck brace afterwards………….Makes me wish I was 13 again.

Something to ponder about.

Community, Gardening

The Middle of Middle Earth – New Zealand

Windy Wellington is what they call it, for good reason. Although  a stunning day was served up for our afternoon arrival, the evening and next day had weather forecasts predicting 130km/hr winds northerly gale.  Well, Wellington is the only capital city located in the ‘Roaring Forties‘, so it  is hardly surprising.

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Still, a pretty stunning welcome from Wellington. I love that Aqua blue water, and there was no sign of plastic bottles and litter floating about the edges, which I see, all too frequently, in big cities. Mind you, Wellington is not a big city, by any stretch of the imagination with less than 400,00 people according to Wikipedia. But it is the capital city and the hub of the political sphere in NewZealand.

NormandaleNew Zealand 2013 411

How is this for a view from your living room window? This is what some of my family look out to every morning.

One of the first things I like to do, when I stay somewhere, is go for a walk in the local area. I guess I am a bit of a sticky beak, but I do like to see how others live and their surroundings. The houses, the streets, the people are all so interesting. Here are some pics from my walk in Whitby, a posher area, just outside Wellington city. Whitby is separated into 3 different areas, by the locals that live there. They call each of them ‘Richby, Ditchby and Shitby’, apparently. I was lucky I was staying in Richby, but did walk over to Ditchby which borders Shitby. The houses with the views below are part of Richby! I’ll leave ‘Shitby’ to your imagination.

Whitby New Zealand 2013

Imagine looking out to these hills every day of your life? They look as though a giant hand poured a whole lot of sugar/sand onto a plate and then rolled grass green fondant over the top shaping valleys in the folds of where the sand lay. Magical!

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We have “Tree ferns” in Australia, but there rarely get to the height one sees in New Zealand, in the sub-tropical climate where I normally live. Apparently, Kiwis call them “Ponga” trees. ( sounds like punga)

tree fern

Ponga is the Maori name for the native New Zealand tree fern. It was once a valuable source of food, building materials and weapons. The silver fern is well known as a national symbol, there are ten species of tree fern in New Zealand according to

Over the next two weeks, we found some stunning cool climate plants in and around Wellington. However, our first stop was a road trip up in Hastings and Napier in the North Island. But that is another story for me to write. Something I’ll ponder about tomorrow.