Why Australian Christmas Is Actually The Best
Home is the place to be.
This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.
When it comes to Christmas, Australia doesn’t come to mind as a particularly ‘traditional’ locale. Christmas cards adorned with snowmen, robins and cheery children wrapped up in scarves make little sense – and nor do many Christmas carols, except for the musical masterpiece that we all sang at various primary school carols nights, the Aussie ‘Jingle Bells’.
Our fond Christmas memories revolve around sun-kissed family beach cricket tournaments, Carols by Candlelight and Santa dressed in boardshorts, a Hawaiian shirt and thongs.
“I just can’t imagine Christmas in the sun!” the Americans and Brits proclaim, before proceeding to grumble about how they can’t leave the house for some sort of gale-force wind or snow situation, while we laze back in our banana lounges and reach for another VB. Christmas in Australia might not be exactly what the Three Wise Men had in mind, but we’ve certainly made it our own: religious or not, Australian Christmases are a cultural institution that would surprise any winter purist.
Santa Claus still comes to town
The kids – and kids at heart – wake up at some obscenely early hour on Christmas Day, as they do all across the world. Luckily, ‘round these parts it’s light by about 5 o’clock – and it’s much easier to become giddy with infectious excitement with a little bit of Vitamin D. Presents done and kids sent to play (outside!), you have to admit it’s much easier and more enjoyable to pick out a Christmas outfit that doesn’t involve 19 layers of scarves and thermals – even if your Dad does always insist on donning an “Unreal, Banana Peel!” t-shirt. Really, the Australian Christmas uniform usually involves a singlet, shorts and some comfy Kmart thongs, so to say that anything goes would be an understatement.
A feast in the heat
Come lunchtime, the Great Australian Christmas is like some sort of mass pilgrimage. The freeways are chockers with people-carriers and station wagons, filled to the brim with pavlova, presents and smiling people, all heading out of the suburbs to various extended family members’ places. Cars squeeze into driveways, and you’re handed a stubbie of beer almost before you can get out of the passenger seat and hand around your stock of JB Hi-Fi gift cards to all the kids.
A few beers deep, someone slyly asks Nana how long until the food’s ready, and the pilgrimage continues to the big table, decorated with the finest plastic Christmas tablecloths. The Christmas crackers – a true Australian institution – are pulled, which leads to a good half hour of wearing majestic paper crowns, playing with the novelty miniature yo-yos and nail files, and reading out the comedic gold that comes in the form of cracker jokes.
We’re pretty lucky to have the best of both worlds, to take a leaf from Hannah Montana’s book, when it comes to Christmas-appropriate food. It’s completely respected to go the whole hog (the whole fowl?) so to speak, with the complete Christmas turkey-sprouts-pudding package. But with warm weather forecasts for the big day this year, other acceptable festive meals include prawns, seafood platters or just a good ol’ fashioned BBQ. The only prerequisite for an Australian Christmas lunch is that all notions of #cleaneating are thrown out the window and if you can power through 12 roast potatoes, now’s your time.
After dessert, which is inevitably pavlova followed by approximately nine boxes of Cadbury’s Favourites that people have received as presents, everyone pretends to help with the washing up for about three minutes before sneaking off to socialise. The more…senior…members of the family settle themselves into various armchairs in front of the telly and talk about how much taller all the kids have become over the past year, the little kids scatter their new toys around the lounge room and dive in, and everyone in between heads outside for the annual Christmas cricket/soccer/foosball game. Whether you’re in the backyard or you’ve made it to the beach for a spot of frisbee and Spot-The-Sunburnt-British-Tourists, it’s arguably the family event of the year – and the winners are the kings of the clan, at least for the rest of the afternoon.
The sun sets, but – the air still warm outside – the family kicks on, and a game of charades is a favourite amongst many families. Waleed Aly, Tony Abbott and Kylie Minogue, the true Australian heroes and villains, inevitably pop up through questions that are by no means politically correct but are still comedic genius. With the kids in bed, things get very giddy until someone says it’s time to sleep.
The day after
Returning with a vengeance on Boxing Day morning, the re-cooked Christmas lunch as next-day breakfast should be compulsory across the country. Potatoes are eaten, wrapping paper is thrown into a big pile that’ll become someone’s fire kindling for a year come winter, and last night’s memories of spilling teenage secrets to your parents after one too many champagnes flood back, before everyone slowly packs children, presents and various pets back into the car to face the return trip home. There truly is something special about Australian Christmas – and nobody really puts it better than Tim Minchin in his absolute tear-jerker of a modern Australian Christmas song, ‘White Wine In The Sun’.
Christmas in Australia will always be a cultural institution for us. Being such a huge country, and one full of people who love to travel and move overseas, Christmas is the one time when everyone does their darndest to get home and spend the day the way they grew up. If you’ve spent a Christmas alone on the other side of the world before, the significance of its ‘togetherness’ really hits you – albeit a bit too late, when you’re eating stale baguette in a freezing cold apartment in Paris.
There really is something special about Australian Christmas, which brings together good food, good wine and good company in that typical laidback Aussie way. And while we do sometimes dream of a White Christmas, we’re secretly pretty content with our version; we wouldn’t trade the mangoes, prawns and al fresco dining for all of the snow in the world. There’s not much that makes you feel more grateful to be where (and who) you are than drinking white wine in the sun with everyone you love, at home.
Now pass me another beer.
This feature has been brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play their part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe. Because nothing feels quite like coming home.