An Aussie Christmas

Let me begin by saying that I love Christmas. I am not particularly religious but I am attracted as a lot of people are by the sense of occasion, its opt-in seasonal faith, its proud, shameless indulgence and the opportunity it gives to pause and take stock at the end of the year.

That being said – what’s an Aussie Christmas like? Everything is topsy-turvy since Christmas in Australia is in the middle of summer and instead of anything close to approaching white, snowy scenery, we experience blue skies, sunshine and intense heat. Sometimes up to 35 degrees C (100 degrees F).

Australia, though huge in size, has a population of just over 20 million people and our country is a harmonious mix of many ethnic groups. Our backgrounds are very varied. We have connections with England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Middle East, Vietnam, China, Japan, India, Thailand as well as North and South America. So you can imagine that each of these national groups brings the colour, customs and festive rituals of the Christmas celebrated in their respective homelands.

So how does my family celebrate Christmas? For my grandson’s here in Australia and in New Zealand, their Christmas’s are different to the traditional one I experienced as a child growing up in the UK. The main changes are influenced by weather and while I still find it a little strange that Christmas is in the middle of summer here (even after all these years!), as they grow up they will know nothing else.

Already their excitement is growing and there are the usual letters to Santa, the opening of the advent calendar each morning and the lights that sparkle on the Christmas tree. What’s different is that there are native plants such as the ‘Christmas bush’ in the house and on the cards that arrive, there are images of kangaroos and koala’s wearing Santa hats. But many of the traditions I enjoyed as a child, my grandsons will also enjoy – they just may experience and talk about them differently!

Because it is summer here, the weather allows the boys to enjoy a tradition called ‘Carols in Candlelight’. These are held in the City on Christmas Eve, always out in the open and in the cool of the evening, where hundreds of friends and families gather to sing both traditional and Aussie carols. One famous Aussie carol has chorus that goes like this:

Six white boomers, snow white boomers
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers
On his Australian run.

Boomers are kangaroos by the way! On Christmas Day itself, the boys will spend time with their rellies (relatives), get lots of Chrissie pressies (Christmas presents) and enjoy a barbie (not the doll, a barbecue) at the beach. There will be drinks in the esky (cooler), pavlovas (not plum pudding) for dessert and time to swim and keep cool. Santa may arrive in a cossie (a swimsuit) on a surfboard – quite a change from sliding down a chimney!

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day and is a public holiday. Australia has two major sporting events that take place on this day – one is the Boxing Day Test Match (cricket game) and the other is the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race on Sydney Harbour. Most Australians will watch these events on TV or in person and we will take the boys to see the amazing spectacle of the yachts as they leave the harbour from one of the many viewing areas around the entrance to the Pacific Ocean.

An Aussie Christmas may be a little different, but the sentiments do not change and as quoted by Norman Vincent Peale “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”