It is my great honor to welcome Katy Hulme as a guest here today. She was one of the first people I met when I joined this strange and sometimes terrifying world of social media. I love her wit and sense of humor, plus her strong writing voice. She’s become one of my very good friends, and she’s here today to tell us about what it’s like to have an Aussie Christmas.
It’s that time of year again, when I suspect many of you are getting out your winter woolies, stocking up on the hot chocolate, perhaps preparing for the first snow fall of the season, and lighting open fires lined with Christmas stockings. A scarf and gloves are necessary accessories whenever you leave the house, and the smell of mince pies and Christmas puddings intoxicate the tinsel-lined streets.
As an imported pom, I am familiar with the traditional image of a White Christmas; open fire, falling snow, roast turkey and all. As a kid in the UK, I would spend the time leading up to Christmas at school colouring in snow covered yule logs, making paper snowflakes and at recess bolting outside to build snowmen. I was always rugged up from head to toe in as many layers as I could manage and even then, I was still always cold.
When I moved to Australia at the age of ten, I was introduced to an entirely different experience.
For those of you who aren’t aware, December for us Aussies is the start of what’s usually a scorching hot summer. While you all the way up there in the Northern Hemisphere are sitting by an open fire, warming your cold hands, we’re sitting by the pool, cooling our hot feet. We leave the house with sunscreen, hat and sunnies in tow, and every day soak in the summer sun. The usual summer holiday festivities reign, with music festivals, road trips, camping, and pub crawls taking place, along with many days spent lying on the beach.
On Christmas Day, every family of course has their own traditions, but some things are nationwide-understood customs. Due to the heat we scrap the hot, inside oven for a Christmas lunch cooked on the backyard BBQ, or a beach BBQ for those lucky enough to grab an early spot by the sand. Hot roast turkeys are replaced with fresh seafood, cold meats, salads and our national desert, Pavlova; a meringue cake with a crisp crust, soft marshmallow centre, topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
While Christmas meals are usually reserved for family, we are not at all opposed to celebrating the holiday with friends, passing the day lazing on the beach with mates, cold beer in hand and regular dips in the waves to cool down. Many will embrace the theme of Christmas and dress in Santa suits, but not before they are altered to better suit the Australian climate, with shorter sleeves and even shorter shorts.
Yet, with all these differences abound, we can’t seem to shake some of the worldwide Christmas traditions. Presents still sit wrapped under the tree and Santa still comes to visit us all the way Down Under (although he, too, has to make a quick wardrobe change into his summer Santa suit). A Christmas tree is still customary, although many families opt for fake trees, which bear a little better in the summer heat. Decorations line the streets and traditional Christmas carols still resonate through the radio and shopping centres. We still ‘dream of a white Christmas’ and of ‘walking in a winter wonderland’, singing along to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer at our annual Carols by Candlelight. We do have an excellent 90s Australian rendition of Jingle Bells (Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute, kicking up the dust, esky in the boot), but the original jingle still plays.
You see, although we like to do things our own special way down here in Aus, we can’t help but embrace the rest of the world’s traditions while we’re at it. I cannot deny that I’ve grown quite fond of my Christmases by the beach, and while we may have replaced snow with sand and hot chocolate with a cold beer, Christmas is still a time for family and loved ones, a time for being merry, sharing a laugh, and sparing a thought for those less fortunate. While I sometimes miss the White Christmas, the fireplace and the hot roast dinners, I am thankful the fundamentals are the same and feel lucky to call Australia home.
Whether you’re dressed in beanies or bikinis this festive season, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
“Dashing through the bush in a rusty Holden ute,
Kicking up the dust, Esky in the boot,
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It’s summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs.
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells jingle all the way,
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day,
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut,
Oh what fun it is to ride in a dusty Holden ute.
Engine’s getting hot, we dodge the kangaroos,
The swaggie climbs aboard, he is welcome too.
All the family’s there, sitting by the pool,
Christmas day in the Aussie way, by the Bar-b-cue. Oh!
Come the afternoon grandpa has a doze,
The kids and Uncle Bruce are swimming in their clothes,
The time comes round to go, we take a family snap,
And pack the car and all shoot through
Before the washing up. Oh!”