For many of us, the idea of a cold Christmas is a story setting for films like Home Alone (1990) or Elf ( (2003). Our Christmas’ aren’t spent shovelling snow or wrapped in ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters. Instead, we’re dressed up in our best summer attire, perfect for a Christmas Day spent outdoors with the family, perhaps ending with a dip in the pool.
Aussies aren’t the only ones who experience the phenomena known as a warm holiday season. Even those from ‘cold Christmas countries’ like the U.S: who live towards the West or South, will have a warm Christmas, but perhaps not in the way we do ‘down under’.
The holiday season for many in Australia begins even before Halloween; as that is the time the supermarkets and shops decide it’s time for the Christmas décor to go up. So we spend most of Spring and the start of Summer knowing it’s Christmas soon. And although the majority of Australians identify as non-religious, it doesn’t stop us from participating in these pseudo-Christian events (also see: Easter) because if we’re honest, it’s pretty much just about consumerism nowadays anyway. Well, consumerism and family.
Because this is a holiday where you combine the enjoyable (sometimes stressful) undertaking of buying loved ones gifts and the physical act of spending quality time with them. Christmas, for a long while, has been marked as the occasion for distant relatives (both literally and figuratively) to join together over a hearty meal and share their stories from the last year. My family spends these meals mostly discussing the latest issues in sport, politics and popular culture. These conversations take place at a long rectangular table where only half the occupants can actually participate in the conversation – namely the adults (because the kids are down at the far end of the room).
Every year, my mother’s side gathers for a more European-style Christmas Eve and my father’s side meets for an Aussie Christmas Day. I believe that the Christmas Day celebrations are what separates Australians from others around the world. It is (for some reason), customary for us to have seafood, mostly prawns, as a precursor to the main course. The main meal follows as usual – a standard affair of hot roast turkey, chicken, ham and vegetables, even though it’s usually around 30 degrees Celsius outside.
We pull open Christmas crackers and then proceed to eat our meals while wearing cheap paper crowns on our heads, reading out unbelievably bad dad jokes and admiring our new plastic thingamabobs. For some reason, my Dad’s side also has party poppers (the annoyingly loud miniature bombs that spray confetti everywhere), and so the meal is also fettered with the random sounds of startling bangs.
After the meals, we sit around cooing at the new additions to the family, who are lucky in that they get to go off and have a nap while some of us clean up.
If you’re curious as to how we’ve gone about celebrating a holiday that is usually known for its winter-themed accessories, well, we’ve made our own traditions. Santa can be seen wearing board shorts and carrying a surfboard, coupled alongside his six white boomers (kangaroos) who pull his sleigh over the Australian outback. There’s even a song to describe how Santa does his Australian rounds on Christmas Eve called:
Six White Boomers (1990)
Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
Racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun.
Six white boomers, snow white boomers,
On his Australian run.
Pretty soon old Santa began to feel the heat,
Took his fur-lined boots off to cool his feet,
Into one popped Joey, feeling quite okay,
While those old man Kangaroos kept pulling on the sleigh.
I’m sure that aside from the Australian influence on this holiday, my experience is not particularly unique. For all of us who celebrate some form of family gathering around December – or at another time of year – can relate to the universal moments that unite us all about family gatherings. I think that especially after the hardships of the last two years, no matter what your nationality, religion, race or background, we should all appreciate the moments that unite us with our loved ones.
Image by Lynda Hinton via Unsplash