Thinking about our annual mass exodus to beaches and sea side towns on Boxing Day got me wondering if it was always so.
A bit of research on our website confirms that a seaside culture had grown up in the nineteenth century and those who could afford it holidayed at the sea. The Governor-General, for example, traditionally retired to Northland for “fishing and sunshine” and in 1894 Kaiteriteri was already a popular gathering (or trysting) place at New Year.
It was not always so for the working man though. The law didn’t make even Christmas a holiday until late in the century; before that it was a regular working day for many. According to New Zealand History Online the summer break as we know it started to be popular in New Zealand from the 1920s, by which time most people had a week of holidays.
Travel was not by car, but by train and boat. Train excursions were popular right from their inception in the 1870s. However by between the wars newspapers referred to the holiday queues for boats and trains as the mad rush. As early as 1910 four express trains left Christchurch for points south every day during the holiday period. It all sounds a bit reminiscent of travelling in Europe. Motor cars didn’t become the main mode of transport until the 1950s.
Perhaps that explains why we had such a large and forlorn (I always thought), railway station built in Christchurch in the 1960s. Someone hadn’t caught up with our change in travelling habits.