‘Twas the night before Christmas, it was 28 degrees and the sky was light and blue.
I have experienced a total of 6 Christmases in Australia. Two from my travelling days (2001 and 2006), and four since we made the move here in 2011. No matter how hard I try, I still find it strange Christmas shopping in the sunshine and donning a bikini and Santa hat on Christmas day.
This year we deviated from a bbq and opted for turkey with all the trimmings (even sourcing bread sauce from the UK). Our children are now two and three so are beginning to get into the Christmas spirit (well they liked the fact they got a chocolate for 24 days and that some man was bringing them presents). I, like many parents, have exploited the fact that Father Christmas was coming using it daily as a form of bribery on the lead up. Sadly, as with last year, they totally freaked when I took them to meet the big fella in person at the David Jones Santa’s grotto – #nofilter #nophoto.
They were a little happier waving to him from afar as he flew by our house in a helicopter two days before – something I have yet to witness in the 30 UK Christmases I’ve experienced.
The girls wrote their letters to Father Christmas. On Christmas Eve the stockings were placed at the end of their beds and we left a carrot and glass of water out for FC and his reindeer. But this Father Christmas doesn’t come through the chimney, he’s much more civilised, apparently he has his own key and everything.
The thing about being an expat, is that friends become like family. On Christmas day instead of staying home all day, the morning is spent at the beach with friends. We had our turkey dinner and a good friend of ours joined us. We sat in our back yard, on the one hand grateful it was a sunny day this year and no rain forecast, yet sweltering as we crowded under the shade from the umbrella. It felt a little odd to be munching on a hot roast dinner in the heat.
My friend offered to bring the crackers. When she asked where to find them in the supermarket, they sent her to the crackers and biscuit aisle. Apparently in Oz crackers are called ‘bon bons’ they may also not be as vital a part of Christmas day as she was limited to a choice of two. Perhaps that’s because trying to keep the little paper crowns on your head in the heat and potential breeze is tricky to say the least.
After all the presents had been ripped open by the kids, we headed down to a friend’s house to continue the celebrations.
It struck me that in the UK, at least in my experience, we would rarely leave the house on Christmas day – unless it was a walk to walk off the turkey making room for Christmas pudding.
So when people ask me what Xmas is like in Oz, I can only answer form the point of view of an expat. For me, it’s still not like the Christmases I remember – your ears aren’t subjected to Christmas tunes for weeks leading up to the big day, decorations in the city, shops and restaurants are subtle, there is no such thing as the radio times and quite honestly apart from a couple of extra films, the television choice is as poor as usual. It’s tricky to find a decent selection of crackers (bonbons), mince pies, Christmas pudding etc. and Christmas shopping doesn’t feel anywhere near as chaotic, it’s not dark – whilst it’s not always been blue sky and sunshine for every Aussie Christmas I’ve had, its usually warm.
I had a lovely Christmas this year with my immediate family and some good friends, we have had fun. However, for some reason it feels like we are just playing at Christmas here, acting it out in an attempt to replicate a good old traditional English Christmas. When there is absolutely no chance of snow falling all around, and no holly I sight – it just feels different.