When it comes to weather, Kansas is a bit unpredictable. I never counted on a white Christmas or even a cold Christmas and always figured I was flexible when it came to how the holidays “should” be. But spending the holiday season in New Zealand this year was confusing.

With the sun out and the beaches full of kids on holiday, there’s no trouble getting into the swing of summer. I can wear sandals, shorts and t-shirts walking to town and eat lunch on my parents’ back patio while the house’s doors and windows are all open to catch the breeze.

On the other hand, I could totally get into the holiday spirit just by reading in the living room next to our family’s tiny Christmas tree with white lace snow flakes, or when the kids the language school where my mom works learned to bake holiday pies.

The problem comes with doing both at the same time. Every time we turn on the radio or tv, there’s advertisements: “Do your holiday shopping during Farmer’s summer blowout sales!” “Get your Kiwi bloke a grill this holiday season!” “Spend your Christmas Eve at AC Baths – swimming, raffles, prizes!” Every time we watch tv, there’s commercials that just do not make sense to me.

I realized just how embedded some of my seasonal patterns are; I get little twinges when things don’t match up, whether it’s tourists who show up in July and complain about the cold or my mother referring to April as “last fall.”

Luckily, this complicated problem has a simple fix : there’s nothing more relaxing or more joyous than a family Christmas picnic at the beach.