Holiday Seasons: Christmas, New Year and Easter in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand


Alison Clarke

*No longer in print

‘Clarke shows how colonial settlers adapted the age-old festivals of New Year, Easter and Christmas to the new world of upside-down seasons, unfamiliar vegetation and isolation. . . a gorgeous little book.’– Finlay MacDonald


In Holiday Seasons, Alison Clarke shows how colonial settlers from the northern hemisphere adapted the age-old festivals of Christmas, New Year and Easter to a new world of upside-down seasons, unfamiliar vegetation and cultural diversity.

They decorated their homes with pōhutukawa at Christmas and ate green peas and new potatoes; they went to the races at New Year and on hunting trips at Easter. But they still ate plum pudding on 25 December, went first footing at New Year and observed Easter with traditional services and hot cross buns. Catholics and Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians had different priorities in celebrating Christian festivals, and the friction between those who wanted a day off to picnic and those who wanted to worship at church was integral to the development of these holidays in New Zealand. Similarly, we owe many of our festive customs to the differences between the English, Irish and Scottish ways of celebrating their holidays.

Holiday Seasons reminds us that along with vision, dedication and a capacity for hard work, our forebears also brought jollity and frivolity.



Alison Clarke is a Dunedin historian with a PhD from the University of Otago. As well as researching and writing about history she is an archivist who works at the Hocken Library Collections, Dunedin, New Zealand.


March 2007, 205 x 210 mm, 150 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403829, $34.99