Every year, without fail, between Christmas and New Year campgrounds are flooded, wind wrecks tents, sodden holidaymakers pack up and go home, festivals turn into seas of mud. Yet still the plucky New Zealanders set out on their holidays at this time, headed like lemmings straight for the cliff. Some hereditary instinct, deeply implanted, tells them that once the last of the Christmas dinner has been slept off, and the kids have exhausted the novelty of their new toys, then it must be Summer. And Summer means Holidays. Long spells of Glorious Hot Weather. Not a drop of rain in sight. Get in the car and go.
Probably, eventually, by a Darwinian process of natural selection, a new kind of New Zealand holidaymaker will emerge who realizes that true summer has shifted. Maybe once those long spells of GHW did happen around Christmas/New Year—in fact, my memories of a 1950s childhood tell me they started even earlier—but for at least 15 or 20 years now it has been plain that the weather in late December is more likely to be wet and even cold than warm and dry. Even early January can be moody with cloud. The better summer weather (azure sky, baking heat) rarely kicks in before the middle of the month, and it is a truth universally acknowledged that the really hot stuff these days happens in February and even March.
Something's out of whack. The summer solstice may be fixed at 22 December but true summer peaks in February now. Just when the kids are back in school.
There is a way to fix this, and it will take the same kind of boldness Samoa has just shown by arbitrarily shifting its time zone west of the international dateline. It goes like this:
(a) Treat Christmas as a long weekend, like Easter.
(b) Everyone goes back to work and school after that.
(c) New Year's Day could be a one-day holiday but not necessarily: in many countries it's an ordinary working day.
(d) School breaks up mid-January and the school holidays run from then to the end of February (that's when universities already resume: why not primary and secondary schools?).
This way, everyone, especially children, gets to enjoy the best summer weather, instead of gazing longingly out of classroom and office windows during the burning heat of February. And (by the way) stop starting Super 15 rugby in February when the grounds are at their hardest. No wonder so many players get injured. Happy New Year.