Christmas Down Under

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.

chorus
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!

Chorus

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!”

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26 comments on “Christmas Down Under

  1. We lived in Hawaii for a spell, and our Christmases sound similar to yours – some of the same traditions endure: a tree, wrapped presents, family time. But, like you, we traded warm fires for sandy beaches and hot cocoa for cold beer. Either way, I love the Christmas season!!

  2. How cool! Uh…or hot? LOL Thanks for the view of Christmas traditions from the other side of the globe. Australia is my number one trip destination. As soon as I can figure out how to get there without flying 24 hours or buying enough Valium to keep me happy in-flight. 🙂 Great post!

  3. What an amazing post Katy…I had NO idea!!! Love hearing about the different traditions but also, about those that are the same! Sooo cool…thanks for swinging by Angela’s digs to bring us all up to speed….
    My Mom is from the Dominican Republic and the few times I’ve gone and spent Christmas there, I always found the similarities and differences fun! They also share some festivities, gifts and decorations, but they believe in the 3 kings instead of santa. And like you guys in Australia, they spend Christmas day at the beach.
    Thanks for a great guest post Angela.
    Happy holidays to all – near and far! 🙂

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Natalie! Feel very special getting to post here on Angela’s blog. And I’m glad to have enlightened you with our strange Southern Hemisphere ways! 😉

      It’s funny how different places have different Christmas icons too. I’ve never heard of anywhere believing in the 3 Kings! My brother lives in Germany and they’ve just had a pre-Christmas celebration on Dec 6th for Saint Nicholas Day, where they get chocolates and celebrate the real Saint Nicholas. In Italy they have La Befana on Jan 5th, who fills stockings with candy or coal depending on if you’ve been naughty or nice. So many different traditions across the globe!

    • Celebrating the Three Kings–how interesting! It is fun to learn about different traditions. 😀

  4. Coleen Patrick says:

    Thanks for sharing! That pavlova looks YUM!

  5. I’m with Coleen….that Pavlova looks delicious!! Let me know if you feel like sharing the recipe, Katy!

    Thanks for hosting Katy, Angela. 🙂

    • Katy says:

      I have to confess, Tiffany, I’ve never actually made pavlova! The closest I came was buying the pre-made meringue base and just adding the topping, but I’m pretty sure that’s cheating! Oops!

  6. Hey Katy and Angela!

    I’ve been to Sydney once in August. We flew from the tropic clime of Singapore and changed into turtlenecks and long pants the moment we arrived. I’d like to think that the holiday spirit spans weather zones and latitudes.

    Never spent the holidays in a warm climate, unless I count the three years I lived in L.A. Almost eighty on Christmas Eve…it was a bit strange.

  7. Katy says:

    Thank you for the opportunity to be a guest on your wonderful blog, Angela! 🙂

  8. […] Today I have the pleasure of guest posting on the lovely Angela Wallace’s blog. […]

  9. In Poland, where I am originally from, we also celebrate the day of Three Kings (in US known better as Three Wise Men or Three Magi). This is the day when Polish take down the Christmas decor, including the tree.

    It would be hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit in the midst of summer. And I love Pavlova, although I haven’t had it since I’ve moved to the US many years ago.

    Merry Christmas!

  10. Lissa says:

    I’ve done the opposite to you, Katy. I immigrated to England from Australia at age 23 and learned what it was like to have a snowman outside my house and a white Christmas, discovered Yorkshire pudding, and had the hardest time convincing my laughing British friends that we really do sing Australian versions of Christmas Carols. I also make a lot of pavlovas: they’re really easy!

    • Katy says:

      Mmm Yorkshire pudding, how I miss thee! I’m impressed with your pavlova making. I might have a go this Christmas 🙂 Out of interest, do you prefer Aussie or British Christmases, now that you’ve had a taste of both?

  11. I have friends in Australia, but I’ve never thought to ask how things are different in the way they celebrate Christmas (which shows how my own assumptions influence my thinking). So now I have a stupid question–is Thanksgiving celebrated in Australia, and if so, how does it differ?

    • Katy says:

      Not a stupid question at all, Marcy! We don’t officially recognise Thanksgiving in Australia. In fact, I suspect a lot of people don’t really know what it’s about and the majority wouldn’t be able to tell you when it takes place. That said, we’re quite a multicultural society, and I did see this year on Facebook a few of my Aussie friends wishing their US friends and family a happy Thanksgiving. No doubt there are also a few American/Canadian expats who also celebrate.

  12. T.F.Walsh says:

    Very spot on Katy – sounds like my Christmas too:) Luckily this year the hot season hasn’t hit yet… it’s been raining non stop and freezing:)

    • Katy says:

      Glad you get to embrace the Aussie Christmas too, Tania! We’ve had a couple of “warm” days here in Tassie, but summer does seem to be a little late this year. I heard it’s been freezing in Sydney. Then again, when I was there in October it was 35 degrees!

  13. You know, I’ve always wondered what the Aussies do for Christmas. I just can’t imagine having summer at Christmastime (although, in San Diego it’s often warm enough for the beach on Christmas day).

    Pretty cool traditions and that video is a scream. Thanks for giving us a world view of Christmas, Aussie style!

  14. […] about Christmas Down Under with Katy Hulme over at Angela R. Wallace’s […]

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