Well boys and girls, as I type this it's officially Christmas Day where I live (Yes, OMG, my shitbox of a car can reach 88 miles per hour!), so Merry Christmas to you all.
Anyway... terrible pop-culture references aside, I just wanted to make a thread about what it's like to celebrate Christmas down here! I often get asked a lot by people online - always from the Northern Hemisphere - about exactly what goes on at this time of year. It's not ignorance, it's just that there's so much media for a typical "White" Christmas and huge, important family get-togethers that it's hard to think otherwise, even down here. I hope this is an interesting read/insight for you all, because I know we're a bit backwards when it comes to this time of year.
To start off, let me just make clear the following, for all those people who are not aware (and trust me, I know there are quite of few of you out there!):
- We celebrate Christmas on the 25th December, just like [mostly] everywhere else.
- Yes, Christmas here does occur in our Summer.
As a result of the second point, we have to change the whole dynamic of Christmas, since, of course, we can't exactly sit by an open fire, all snug and wrapped up in warm clothes, battling the cold... we'd swelter to death! Although I can't say what's true for everyone, I can discuss my own family's traditions and the national traditions we do have here.
For starters, we still do have a lot in common with the cold Christmas's you get in the North. Children believe in Santa and leave him out milk and cookies and carrots for the reindeer. There's still Christmas trees, Christmas lights on houses, well-stocked kitchens, presents & gifts, and - last but certainly not least! - a lot of bills to pay in the New Year! As far as decorations are concenred, my own family puts up snowmen, reindeer or otherwise "cold" themed plushies around the house. Kids still wake up their parents at ungodly hours to open the presents, I'm thinking as revenge for the parents waking up the kids early for school throughout the year! You can find a Santa in practically every shopping mall, at charity events, children's hospitals, walking about the city, and also at your local pub knocking back a few cold beers! Although in regards to my last point there, he's merry for reasons other than being in the Christmas spirit.
Yes, Santa is big here, and yes he still does wear his thick red coat, depsite the heat (funnily enough, the fact the coat is red was designed by Coca-Cola, an American corporation - just more commercialism about this time of year, I suppose) and he does ride around in his sleigh pulled by reindeer. Although some Christmas stories here will have Santa being pulled around by Kangaroos(!) and, in fact, a lot of my own childhood stories about Christmas and Santa involved Australian fauna and flora to some degree. Actually, come to think of it, although we get a lot of "White Christmas" movies here, there are quite a number of animated features where native Australian animals celebrate Christmas in their own special way in the outback.
And on that point, let me just say again that yes, we do get a lot of the American Christmas movies here, where it is snowing and the family all gets together all cosy in a warm house. You'd think it a little strange, however, I guess since Christmas has become a hugely commercial holiday, we've always just taken it at face value. As far back as I can remember, around this time of year these sorts of movies (Miracle on 34th Street?) have been played on our televisions. I guess it might be a difficult concept to grapple, I mean, here we are getting onto the middle of Summer, yet we put on flicks about snow and hot dinners and warm family gatherings.
Now speaking of family gatherings, it does work a little differently here, I'd imagine, since this is where a bit of Aussie culture seeps into the festivities. Now, this is where a lot of families differ in their approach to actually celebrating Christmas Day. Australians are big on having BBQs, so the big Christmas meal is a lunch, as opposed to a more traditional dinner, and it's all done outside where we bask in the glorious heat of Summer, but in the shade of course. Christmas Day, at least in my region, is notoriously one of the hottest days of the year, and since we are well under way into the storm season, the concept of rain and a thunderstorm late in the afternoon or early evening isn't so far-fetched.
My own family is big on cold meat platters (beef, chicken, turkey, ham.... just chilled), fresh salads, cold drinks and sweet desserts and we often sit outside on our verandah just eating as much as we can so we don't have to store so much in the fridge afterwards! Although I recall some Christmas's we spent at various relatives places where we sat inside in the air-con and again ate a variety of chilled meats. I think of all the times we've celebrated Christmas, we've had a hot meal only once. But it makes sense really, who wants to eat piping hot food on a really hot day? Other than that, seafood is HUGE here for Christmas. So much so that I heard on the news just yesterday that a local seafood store did an entire year's worth of trade in just a few days. Prawns (shrimp) are widely popular and you'll find the quite a large number of families will have this on the menu for their Christmas lunch.
Now despite all that, for my own family, our biggest day of the holiday season actually comes *after* Christmas Day. In fact, it's the very the next day, the 26th, or Boxing Day as it's called here (I believe most other Commonwealth nations celebrate this day?). Anyway, I don't know the history behind it, but it usually the day where we run around and visit all the other family we couldn't see on Christmas Day. So we're pretty much on the move. Not only that, but a lot of retail stores open for "Boxing Day" sales - guess they can't wait to get back into the spirit of Christmas: large profits!
However, overall, Christmas for me is a very dull time of year. My family has never been overly big on it, neither on the concept of gift-giving, but we celebrate it anyway. I think it's because it's the one day of the year where we all know we're going to be at home together. Christmas is just very laidback for us and no one in my family really bats and eyelid or goes to too much effort to make it a super special occasion. Perhaps that's a result of not having the usual Christmas traditions, or perhaps it's because my family is so varied in personality that we stick together just because we're family... I don't know. But Christmas, whilst it's a big day of the year for us, it's certainly not as huge for us as it is for other families.
You're probably thinking we're backwards enough right now - but it gets even weirder! Since there's so much pressure for a cold Christmas here, there are people, and yes I'm being serious, who celebrate Christmas again in July, when it's actually cold here! No, I'm not joking. There are people who put up Christmas decorations in July, throw "Christmas in July!" parties, including more traditional festivities and even the retail industry gets in on the act and has "Christmas in July" sales/advertisement. I mean, it's not a huge thing here, but in recent years it's definitely been picking up speed and becoming more popular.
Anyway, I hope you've all had an interesting read. Feel free to comment or asking questions or whatever! I guess if you want something to reply to, you could always elaborate on how your family gets into the spirit of things, or perhaps you could even discuss some of the backwards things your family does during this time of year that makes it unique for you!