“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” But as I packed my bags for a Christmas trip to Australia, I knew there was no chance. A white Christmas during summer, ha! But I was wrong. It would appear that a white Aussie Christmas is not as impossible as you would think.
In the land of endless sunshine, and endless spiders (shudder), white Christmases are a yearly reality. But it is not the satisfying crunch of snow underneath your feet you will be experiencing when down under. Here they take the form of white sandy beaches that open on to the edge of immaculately blue oceans.
This land of sweltering sunlight, barbecues and beaches has its own unique way of celebrating Christmas. And you guarantee over half the population will make their way to the coast for a swim at some point on Christmas Day.
Waking up Christmas morning is not a chilly affair. Instead, the early morning sunshine streams through the window while galahs and parakeets offer their unusual bird song by way of a wake-up call. And whilst fluffy Christmas pyjamas certainly make for great photos, they have no place in a country that at 7am is already 26 degrees Celsius, if not higher.
Santa, of course, still makes an appearance. He will have left his usual slew of presents underneath the Christmas tree. Though it’s not reindeers that pull this merry man’s sleigh. It is kangaroos. They still fly of course, which is a tricky concept to get your head around, but if you really think about it, it makes just as much sense as reindeers flying. And he doesn’t wear a big red suit either, far too hot for that. Instead, Santa’s outfit of choice is a red shirt and some yellow board shorts. Or swimming trunks as they known elsewhere. Oh and it’s not a ‘partridge in a pear tree’ here, you’ll find a ‘kookaburra in a gum tree’ instead.
Like Christmas anywhere in the world the Aussies also have a feast. This, of course, is followed by an afternoon of lazing around. And as the temperatures rise throughout the day, the opportunity to do nothing is thoroughly welcomed. Naps are taken, though in the heat they are better thought of as siestas, and for everyone else it is time to jump into the swimming pool, a common fixture in many Australian homes. In fact, there seems to be little reason to change out of your swimming costume as the water is where most of the day will be spent.
That doesn’t mean everyone won’t be dressing nicely for Christmas lunch. But this definitely will not be a hair-up, brand new Christmas dress affair. No, in Australia, the land of the casual, it is a smart pair of shorts and a nice top. (Probably the one you got for Christmas.) Accessories, well, I suppose a simple necklace will do. The only accessory you will really need is the paper crown you pull out of your Christmas cracker. Don’t wear it too long though. Cheap manufacturing and high temperatures will work together and by the end of the meal you may find the offending item stuck to your forehead, staining it blue or red! (I suppose you’d better jump into the pool to wash it off.)
Of course, what everyone really wants to know about is the food. Oh, the food. It’s Australia, so you might be wondering if a barbecue is to be expected. Whilst a few families may find themselves cooking over it on Christmas day, in most homes you’ll find the traditional Christmas fare but with an Aussie twist.
There will be a turkey or ham. But don’t expect it to be hot out of the oven, it was probably cooked the day before because who really wants to spend Christmas Day slaving in an already hot kitchen? Potatoes too, but don’t be surprised to find them in the salad form rather than the usual British roast. Oh, there are probably a few of those floating around too, but no one is too concerned with hot food.
Seafood also has a home on the Aussie table. Barbecued prawns (not shrimps, thank you very much) and a crayfish or two. Perhaps even caught by the host themselves. And salads, filled with cranberries and walnuts to add a Christmassy flair will find their place. Gravy, probably, just don’t mix it with the salad.
The crowning star of an Aussie Christmas is of course, the pudding. Not your traditional Christmas pudding though! No, I just mean pudding in the colloquial dessert sense.
This is the pavlova. A dish which everyone awaits with eager anticipation and no one bothers to worry about saving room for. What room do you need when you are about to eat a cloud? It is an improved meringue. Cornflour and vinegar are added to the mixture before cooking and it creates a tall, soft structure. It is described as marshmallow like, but it is far lighter and fluffier. It is topped with cream and every kind of fruit. From mango and passion fruit to all the berries in the world. It wouldn’t be an Aussie Christmas without a pavlova.