Enjoy this delightful description of an Australian Christmas by Alveary Member Bethany S.
The Christmas celebrations of my childhood growing up on the beach in Tasmania, Australia, were quite different from the ones my children experience in the United States today. In Australia, Christmas happens during summer break, with both New Year’s Day and a new school year around the corner. Christmas morning found my family gathered at our house on the beach for a full day of summer fun. Yes, there was the opening of presents around the Christmas tree and the singing of carols around the piano, but there were also water gun fights with cousins in swimsuits, family beach walks, and a big BBQ lunch on the deck with Christmas crackers to pop open at every place setting. I’m sure there was seafood, but I wasn’t a big fan as a kid! The traditional English fruitcake was part of the spread, though I don’t know anyone who really liked it except my grandparents. My favorite dessert was homemade Pavlova, a meringue covered with whipped cream and topped with sliced bananas, kiwi, strawberries, and passionfruit. I remember cutting the hard, wrinkly, black passionfruit in half to scoop out that tangy pulp. Some years a cricket match might happen with neighbors out in the street, or a fireworks display might be seen or heard after the summer sky darkened.
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season was staying up late to attend Carols by Candlelight, a festive evening occurring in communities all across Australia. With picnic blankets and electric handheld candles spread across the park, we sang traditional carols and holiday pop songs, including a few with Australianized lyrics. After all, wintry songs and snowy scenes on cards are still common, but rather odd in an Australian Christmas. Over the years, Australia has owned her own seasonal identity. Christmas cards portray a surfing Santa in shorts and sunglasses, kangaroos pulling a sleigh across desert sands, or capture the red rocks of the Australian Outback in beautiful photography.
My American mother brought to our home the tradition of baking Christmas cookies for our neighbors, and one year we spent a whole day baking cookies and pies with American friends. My Mom used to lament that Christmas just “wasn’t the same,” yet my Australian childhood and unique Christmas memories are a treasure to me today. One day we hope to take our kids “down under” to a beach house with relatives for an Australian Christmas!