The Jacaranda trees are burgeoning with buds and starting to erupt into magnificent panicles of soft blue blossom, heralding the coming of Christmas to Australians all around our huge island home. We don't have the snow, yule logs, red-berried holly and roaring log fires which are associated with a northern hemisphere Christmas. The heavy reds and greens of traditional decorations seem out of place in our clear bright daytime light, as do cards decorated with deer, sleighs and sleds, trees laden with burning candles.
Christmas and New Year are both more relaxed and casual in my country, with Santa often depicted on cards dressed in beach shorts and sandals as he hops around to visit children on his kangaroo. Meals are also more relaxed and often served outside in the garden under a shady tree, or picnic style in a large public park or on the beach. Prawns, crayfish (lobster), calamari and oysters have overtaken the usual poultry as the dish of choice and is served with a vast array of salads which is much kinder to the family chief cook and bottle-washer! Rather than drinking heavy calorific mixes like egg nog or cocktails, we tend to sip crisp white wines and champagne which compliments our casual dining syles. Pavlova, filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit has become the traditional substitue for Christmas pudding and I have travelled many miles balancing a decorated pavlova on my lap as we drove to a relative's home to share Christmas dinner with them.
At family gatherings around the country, kids set up games of cricket or beach tennis on any nearby lawn, amusing themselves with outdoor fun in the sunshine and fresh air. Poolside parties and BBQ's are the order of the day as the day slowly cools down and exhausted children are tucked under a sheet for the night. Neighbours and friends sit out on the lawn or deck and relax over a beer or a cup of tea, whiling the evening away with jokes and convivial conversation. The Jacaranda trees drop their beautiful flowers as the evenings stretch out, forming a mauve carpet on the grass below and fill the evening with their delicate perfume - mmhhh! Summer in Australia is a great time of the year to have holidays.
I don't believe that our Australian traditions are better than those of the northern climes, just very different, Somehow, decorating our home with gold and white decorations suits the intensely bright mid summer days we experience and that I associate with Christmas. As a child growing up in Brisbane, Queensland, I often spent Christmas day just dressed in a pair of bathers (a swim suit!) and even now try to dress in my coolest, airiest outfit for the big day. Fly repellent and high factor sun protection are more important than the latest designer perfume, as are a pair of strappy sandals.
As the holiday season draws closer, spare a thought every now and then for our Aussie Christmas traditions - relaxed, casual and laid back is the order of the day, nationwide. Let me know if you'd like to try Christmas Australian-style for a change - I'll send you some recipes!
Wow, Annie. I'd love to experience the laid back style of the Aussies. I had to smile as I visualized Santa riding on his kangaroo. I suppose he has no need to carry a heavy bag to deliver his gifts, as the kangaroo pouch can also double as his delivery bag
Thanks for your comment Golden. Yes, the whole festive season is much more relaxed 'down under'. Kids here find it hard to believe that Santa could travel from the North Pole and the idea of his helpers on 'roos is more credible for them. Many people decorate their homes with Australian trees and flowers as pine/fir trees soon wilt and dry out in our summertime heat. Cold foods and salads suit the climate and leave the family more relaxed to enjoy some convivial times together - a great time for gathering family stories!
I just added an Aussie Christmas visit to my bucket list Annie. You convinced me with some of the neatest words. I often wondered how people in Florida celebrated Christmas.I always felt they were deprived of the authenticity of the day. But, I know they weren't. They found their own traditions. However, I never extended my imagination to as far south as Australia and now I want to experience it. Thanks so much and yes, please post some recipes.