The best way to remember this year is through the prism of its most wonderful moment and the one that, if we're honest, we most severely doubted would come to pass: those cliched fountains of fire squirting skyward behind the carefully staged All Blacks, Richie McCaw holding aloft that tiny yellow cup.
It was a photo opportunity contrived for the drag and drop needs of the world's front pages, an image that was more pragmatic than artful, an image befitting these All Blacks. Artful, yes, were the team's three tries in the final, most satisfyingly the third, when Beauden Barrett's strangely tiny strides carried him the length of the field and settled the Aussies into their richly deserved second place - four more years - but they understood that artfulness is not everything.
There was a time we would not have wanted to win a World Cup pragmatically, but that all changed in 2011, when we learned that a beautiful game is as nothing without the practical resolve to deal with eye-gouging, nut-raking Frenchmen hopped up on having been written off. This year's final was more beautiful, but none of our backline contrivances, no matter how fantastic, were more deeply satisfying than Dan Carter's deeply pragmatic 40m dropped goal with 10 minutes to go.
Pragmatic too was John Key getting himself photographed in the Twickenham dressing room next to Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, dwarfed by Sam Whitelock. The Prime Minister, in that moment, was both smaller and bigger than all those guys - he was an ordinary Kiwi bloke lucky enough to be in the dressing room with the bloody All Blacks, while drinking the same green bottle lager beloved by all blue-aproned Parnell-dwelling barbie cookers, but he was also enlarging himself in the eyes of the electorate. In his smallness, he became bigger than we could have ever imagined.
"That's a very tantalising ponytail," Key said to waitress Amanda Bailey, according to her incredible account, published in April, of his time spent tugging on her hair at Parnell's Rosie Cafe.
Key responded by telling TVNZ's Q & A programme that he's a "friendly guy who likes to interact with the public".
"I do have a bit of a laugh," he said, "and I'm probably the most casual Prime Minister New Zealand's ever had."
The scandal fell off him, as so many scandals have before.
During the Cricket World Cup final, Australia's wicketkeeper Brad Haddin launched a vicious sledging attack on the Black Caps, after claiming - in a quote that was morally bankrupt even in the context of Australia's morally bankrupt sporting history - that their niceness made him uncomfortable. Now retired, to the probable horror of his family, Haddin will forever be known as an average batsman and equally average human being.
Kane Williamson's winning six at Eden Park to beat Australia in the group round was probably the World Cup's best moment. Grant Elliott's six to win the semifinal against South Africa was more important but the South Africans were gallant and pleasant. The Australians were awful. It was hard not to choke on the devastation they eventually wreaked on us in the final.
Australia were the winners. Or were they? We were left not with a trophy but with the knowledge that we were good. After that incredible semifinal six against South Africa, Elliott picked up the broken South African bowler Dale Steyn off the Eden Park wicket block, just as Sonny Bill Williams would help pick up a heavily-tackled schoolboy from the turf at Twickenham following the Rugby World Cup final. Kindness in excelsis. As nation-defining qualities go, it was even better, more emotionally affecting, than pragmatism or Prime Ministerial casualness.
Eighteen-year-old Lydia Ko became the world's number one golfer, the youngest player ever to achieve that. She won a major tournament, the youngest player ever to achieve that. She did it all without making a big deal. She always paid tribute to older players who had achieved more, and off the course she did everything with a smile and a joke, even as she headed on a seemingly inevitable trajectory to become the greatest player in the history of the game. She is probably the most casual golfer New Zealand's ever had.
Into our year came death, as it always does, but this year there was the particular darkness of death too young: Jonah Lomu, Jerry Collins and Norm Berryman, that trifecta of giant All Blacks in their 30s and very early 40s, including the one who changed the way the world saw and played the game. No one death, or even group of deaths, means more than any other, but these deaths of people so recently so young and vital, still so present on our screens and in our minds, struck us, especially that of Jonah, coming days after the final of the World Cup, a tournament which he had once dominated so completely.
Less than 24 hours later, Richie McCaw opened the press conference announcing his retirement by calling for a moment's silence for Jonah. The silence may as well have lasted for the whole press conference. The retirement of the greatest ever All Black captain would have been big news, but instead it was rendered secondary by the death of a legend.
We watched, confused and helpless, as the average price of a house in Auckland erupted towards $1 million.
No doubt that was what Richie wanted. We found out he was going to work for Christchurch Helicopters. After the glory of his career, it was so prosaic, but it shouldn't have been a surprise. Not for him the post-rugby flash of a roving ambassadorship or ambitious start-up. Humility, that most Kiwi of characteristics, was always big with Richie, and so it was too with the All Blacks he shaped in his image. Dan, Ma'a, Conrad, Woody and Kev are all gone now too, and none of them with so much as a press conference.
This year brought justice, or did it? Mark Lundy went back to jail, propelled prisonward in part on the cold, emotive logic of the prosecution's refrain: "No man should have his wife's brains on his shirt."
Protests raged against the TPP, the contents of which were then unknown. Trade Minister Tim Groser assured us that the contents had to remain unknown until an agreement had been reached. Agreement was reached. Groser said the deal was not ideal.
There was the Saudi Sheep Scandal, so named probably more because of our affinity for alliteration than for any accurate summation of the issue at hand, which was whether the Government engaged in bribery.
There was the more accessible "fight club" scandal in which the country's highest profile private prison, Mt Eden, became a mismanaged embarrassment of organised violence. The scandal led the Department of Corrections to take back control of the prison, but not to admit that privatising prisons might be a mistake.
In October, a man was arrested and charged with threatening to poison our infant formula, which was good news for parents who for weeks and months had spent longer than they wanted waiting around the customer service desks of supermarkets for the unlocking of back room cabinets, like so many shameful cigarette shoppers.
John Campbell collapsed under the weight of a corporate review, done in by TV3 executives who were far beneath him and who canned his show even after he established himself as one of their top-rating properties. Their plans for reality-driven televisual emptiness subsequently propelled them and us into a dystopian future that the network, in different days, once fought so seriously against.
TV3's other current affairs show, 3D, this year helped free Teina Pora - an innocent man who had spent 20 years in prison. No matter. It was cancelled and its team of brilliant journalists, including Paula Penfold and Melanie Reid, was disbanded. As if in justification, on The Bachelor, Art Green uncovered the fact that Poppy farted during their date on the beach.
X-Factor hosts Natalia Kills and Willy Moon were, ironically, sacked by TV3 for being mean. They were, in many ways, not New Zealanders anyway. They were cruel and their on-screen personalities felt artificial. They were studies in the emptiness of celebrity.
Prince Harry came and we all went Harry crazy. Prince Charles came.
We banned a book, which got us noticed around the world. Whether or not it was right to ban the book, which it wasn't, the banning highlighted the fact that concentrating a large amount of power in the hands of one person is never a great idea.
We watched, confused and helpless, as the average price of a house in Auckland erupted towards $1 million. Those of us who already owned property were unsure whether to feel pleased that our plain, decent homes - so recently relatively affordable - had become paper goldmines, or whether to feel terrified at what that meant for the future of our country. Those of us who rented watched with anger and despair as dreams of a secure future in a place we could fill with our lives broke free of our grasp at somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent per annum.
As the year blazed to its end, we sought to summarise all this rich experience by choosing a flag. We looked at the five shortlisted designs and we wondered what they said about our national character, or maybe we just thought about which one looked prettiest. Many of us just closed our eyes and prayed they would all go away. Debate was intense and was led by the Prime Minister. In the end, we were fairly united in agreeing with him that we wanted something basically the same as what we've got, but with a fern on it.