While most New Zealanders would despair at the thought of spending Christmas day in a tent in what was one of the wettest Christmas Days in years, French Canadians Camille Messier and Heloise Desrochers revelled in it.

The 19-year-olds said the lakes back home in Montreal were frozen over, 60cm of snow fell last week, and the temperature was falling as low as -30degC - so they were hardly going to be bothered by "a little bit of rain".

"This is positively tropical for us," Miss Messier said, as she peered out of her tent door at the squally showers in the Dunedin Holiday Park yesterday.

"It's not usually like this in Montreal. It's very unusual for us to be in temperatures so warm at this time of year.


"Normally we would go skiing or iceskating on Christmas Day, and eat lots and lots of food."

Miss Desrochers said they were taking a gap year from study and travelling around New Zealand on a working visa.

They had already visited Dunedin twice before, and decided to return for Christmas because it appealed to them so much.

"We love Dunedin. Everybody is really nice and the city is not too touristy.

"The atmosphere is welcoming and the architecture here is beautiful."

Eventually, they plan to return to Montreal in June, where they will study drama together at the Conservatory of Montreal.

The pair spent the past two days with friends they had made in New Zealand, and celebrated Christmas by exchanging gifts in a "Secret Santa" gathering.

Making calls home to friends and family to wish them a happy Christmas was high on their list of priorities yesterday, along with eating lots of food, they said.

It seems there are some things about Christmas that just don't change, no matter where you are in the world.