Christmas Day arrives usually in the presence of brilliant sunshine, tweeting birds and the sounds of excited children who have opened their presents from Santa much too early.
Many families celebrate Christmas Eve until very late, having sat on their balconies or gone down to the beach to enjoy the company of others in the cool night air, sipping champagne or taking a thermos of coffee and nibbles to share. A popular pastime is driving from street to street in our areas to see the fabulous and creative displays of lights on homes.
A unique Australian memory of mine when my children were young, is one of bringing a big branch of our gum tree into our house as the Christmas tree. It was ‘all hands on deck’ as we wrestled with the leafy branches, stood with bated breath to see if it would continue to stand tall in the bucket of rocks and wet sand before decorating! What a picture it was with lights twinkling through the gum leaves as they moved in the breeze, giving off a fresh smell of eucalyptus. This was popular in many families, especially those in the country towns, some decorating an outdoor tree and others making amazing wreaths of gum leaves, native flowers and Christmas bush.
Christmas Day is usually a huge family gathering at homes around the country where way too much food is consumed. The typical menu has moved away from the usual baked dinner of roast chicken or turkey with various stuffings, glazed ham or pork with crackling skin and accompanying vegetables of baked potatoes, honey carrots with peas and cauliflower au gratin. However, for some it’s not Christmas without the tradition. These days we get a lot more creative, using seafood, salads, tropical fruits with platters of cold turkey, chicken, pork but, still true to tradition, there’s nearly always a tray of baked potatoes – everyone’s favourite.
In my hometown of Wollongong (a city on the southern coast of New South Wales, 20 minutes drive west, from ocean to lush rainforest) in Sydney and no doubt spreading to other towns as we speak, the latest gourmet dish for the Christmas table is a TURDUCKEN. Well you may ask... what is that? You may already have such a delicacy in England but I will try to explain as best I can. Turducken is a chicken stuffed with duck and then a turkey stuffed with both. Quite odd and sounding gluttonous but I’ve been told it is very delicious! As for desserts, we still love our puddings, pavlovas and Aussie Chrissy trifle; layers of sherry-steeped cake, jelly and strawberries, peaches, kiwi fruit and more, and of course, a splodge of custard!
It’s a great day for most but for those who don’t have family we have wonderful charities whose volunteers give up a large portion of their day to cook and serve the homeless and anyone for whom Christmas is such a lonely time. For others it is time to take a break and just take the children to the park or the beach and play some cricket, swim or make sandcastles, sharing fish and chips across a picnic rug. Where there are no beaches, there’s usually a river or creek where the outdoors, once again, is enjoyed by families and communities.
We are so fortunate in Australia to have such beautiful places to celebrate in ways that are harmonious with nature, whether in our country areas, near rivers, along the coastline or in the harsh heat of dry earth and drought. Do you see cars decorated with streamers and reindeer ears driving through your towns? Aussies can be such larrikins!
In 2015 we could be having a warm, wonderful day on 25 December, a heatwave or we could be running to take cover from a threatening storm. Here in Oz, when we say heatwave we mean temperatures ranging from 32°C to the mid-40s in western areas. Australia is definitely an unpredictable land of sweeping plains, bush and ocean beaches. Summer time can bring cyclones to northern Australia and fires to anywhere that’s dry giving some a disastrous Christmas. Hopefully not this season!
Merry Christmas to all of you in the UK from your sisters in Oz.
Beverly Shaw | National Secretary NWR Australia
Photo Credits: Coledale NSW Firefighters stage Chrissy water fight by Justin Barry on Instagram / Gum tree with hanging presents by Ruth Durose
How does this compare to your Christmas? Start a discussion by leaving a comment below.