Christmas in New Zealand

It’s been a long time since we’ve spent a Christmas in Canada. Even before moving on our boat, we spent a few holidays skiing the Alps and another with wild animals in Kruger Park. After multiple seasons in the Caribbean, this year, we’re enjoying Christmas in New Zealand. Here are some of the fun traditions and activities we’ve experienced this holiday season.

New Zealand’s Christmas Trees

Being a commonwealth country, New Zealand celebrates Christmas like us, with Santas, Christmas carols, and Boxing Day. They follow many of the same traditions as North Americans, including Black Friday.

One of my favorite things about Christmas in New Zealand is the Pohutukawa. These evergreen trees bloom bright red flowers every December, giving them the status as the New Zealand Christmas tree. We’ve seen them all over the North Island, near our marina, and in Auckland city. They red flowers paired with green leaves are beautiful, and this year, they are at their brightest red due to last year’s record rain.

Pohutukawa New Zealand Christmas tree, red flowers
New Zealand Christmas Tree
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Bocas del Toro Boat Life

We’re in our second month in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. Time is flying! We’re keeping busy, seeing the sights, and spending time with fellow cruisers. Here’s an overview of Bocas del Toro boat life.

About Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro (or Bocas, familiarly) is a province on the Caribbean side of Panama. Part of it is located on the mainland, but the important part is the chain of islands. Bocas del Toro means Mouth of the Bull, and the island chain has 3 big islands and many smaller islets and atolls.

Bocas del Toro on a map
Map of Bocas del Toro Panama

Bocas del Toro is a popular tourist destination, and the site of many banana plantations. It has an airport, with several daily flights from Panama City, and multiple water ferries and taxis from the mainland.

There are three big islands in Bocas del Toro, where most of the activity happens and the majority of people live and work.

Bocas del Toro map mural
Bocas del Toro map mural
Isla Colon

Isla Colon is the main island, with the airport and main town, called Bocas Town. That’s where the stores are and lots of hotels and resorts. It’s the “big island” where we go to provision at the supermarkets.

Isla Carenero

Right across from Isla Colon, Carenero has a small marina, and many resorts, beaches, and restaurants.

Marina on Isla Carenero
Marina on Isla Carenero
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Christmas Panama Style

Brian and I like spending Christmas abroad and enjoy being on the boat in a different place each Christmas. Since we moved on the boat, we take note of the Christmas traditions, decorations, and celebrations in new places. This year, we’re celebrating Christmas Panama style.

Christmas Panama Style Starts Early

Maybe it’s like this everywhere, but Christmas prep started early in Panama. When we were in Panama City in early November, the decorations were up or going up, and the stores were selling holiday goods.

Christmas tree Panama City
Christmas tree going up in a Panama City mall early November 2021
Christmas in Panama store
Christmas for sale in early November in Panama


We’ve seen a mix of real and fake trees this Christmas. Fake trees come in all materials and designs and each tree has different decorations.

Christmas tree Boquete Panama
The huge outdoor Christmas tree in the Boquete town square
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Christmas in Curaçao

This is our third Christmas since we moved aboard Sava, and again we are in a new location, this time the biggest of the ABC islands, Curaçao. As an island with rich history and many cultural influences, of course it’s an interesting place to spend the holiday season! Curaçao got into the Christmas spirit early, with stores displaying holiday cheer in October, and early celebrations at the beginning of December. As we are enjoying Christmas in Curaçao and all the decorations that come with it, I thought I’d share some stories and photos of what the celebrations are like in the Leeward Antilles.

Interested in Christmas in other places? Read about spending Christmas in the Caribbean , Panama and in Florida

Christmas in Curaçao Starts Early

The decorations have been up since Halloween but that’s not even what I am talking about. One of the holidays has already happened.

St. Nicholas Day is the traditional day for presents from Santa and people get excited! Men dress in colorful costumes, paint their faces and jump into cars and drive around yelling out the windows and honking. At least that’s what we’ve seen. So many of them get into one car it’s like a clown car, more noticeable in the days of social distancing.

St Nicholas costumes
St Nicholas celebrations
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Christmas in the Caribbean

Are you a Christmas fanatic who shops all year round for decorations and gifts or more of a Scrooge? If you are the first, then visit the Caribbean anytime after October. Christmas in the Caribbean starts early: all the malls in St. Lucia were decorated and Christmas carols blasted from the speakers when we were there in November.

Since readers liked last year’s photo blog from Florida, here’s one from the Caribbean, mostly Martinique, where Santa and other holiday decor is the norm. The majority of the festive ornamentation is traditional and (fake) evergreen and wreaths abound, but I prefer the original and surprising celebrations, like the relaxed Santa in the display in Sainte Anne, Martinique.

Caribbean Christmas display
Christmas display in Sainte Anne
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