Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Australia continued

Here are a few more observations from the many Christmases I've spent here in Australia (click here to see the beginning of the list):

6. Being summer, Christmas seems like quite a casual affair here in Australia. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I remember Christmas in the USA to be a time for dressing up and putting on something more formal than jeans and a t-shirt. As a girl, my Mom always made sure we had a Christmas dress to wear when we celebrated with my family. As I got older, I wore dresses some years or nice pants with a festive jumper (read: sweater) for others. While some Aussies do get dolled up for Christmas, I do see plenty of people in shorts, singlets (read: tank tops) and thongs (read: flip flops). The Christmas parties we go to here seem to have a mix of fashion--some people are rather dressed up while others are very casual. There doesn't seem to be any hard and fast rule about Christmas fashion here. I do find that frustrating I must admit. I know the weather says one thing--it's hot, dress comfortably, but the occasion says something else, this is a special event and you should dress up. I really never know just what to wear on Christmas Day here in Australia. I've tried asking the Handsome Australian for a bit of guidance, but let's just say he ALWAYS errs on the side of comfort and so his advice can't always be trusted. Smart casual seems to be the way to go...that's something I'll have to explain another day.

7. Christmas baking isn't that popular. When I lived in the USA, I really got into baking around Christmas time. I always had a batch of sugar cookies on the go. There were special breads I'd make as well. All of these lovely homemade items made great gifts for friends and work colleagues and they didn't go unappreciated; people loved receiving them. When I moved to Australia, I tried to maintain this same tradition. I did it for many years until I realised something--it's too bloody hot here to have your oven going for long periods in December. We don't really receive plates and plates of homemade goodies like I remember from the USA, so I'd venture to say that most of the population has already figured out the whole baking in hot weather is a bad idea thing. There are probably some stubborn Expats like myself who still try to give it a burl despite the unforgiving temperatures, but we'd be in the minority.

8. Cherries seem to be a big deal for Christmas. I know I mentioned food in yesterday's post, but I forgot to single out the humble cherry. In the state of Victoria where we live, the cherry season is a very short one. The cherries seem to ripen just in time for Christmas each year. You'll start to see them in the shops in early December and the prices will fluctuate greatly in the lead up to the big day. When I think about Christmas in Australia, I do associate it with cherries. Regardless of what is being served at my in laws for Christmas lunch, there are always cherries. Most of the food advertising that happens around Christmas on television always features cherries. The cherries are never cheap either. I think the cheapest I've ever seen them has been about $7 AUD per kilo. So it is certainly a treat to have them on Christmas.

9. Carols by Candlelight abound. This is a tradition I really like about Christmas in Australia. I've always been a fan of a good Christmas carol and I am really delighted by the various events sponsored by local councils, shopping centres and the like which feature plenty of Christmas carols. Most local councils will sponsor a "Carols by Candlelight" event in their areas. These concerts will be free to the public, will take place in an outdoor setting and will have a mix of local entertainers. Some of these events even feature fireworks at the end. It's a really lovely atmosphere for families. There are two larger concerts--one in Sydney and one in Melbourne that are televised nationally. You actually have to purchase tickets to these larger shows, but the entertainment is top notch with many of the nation's most talented singers and musicians performing. The only drawback to these events is they do go until quite late--it has to be dark to really have candlelight doesn't it? So they can be a bit tricky with little ones, but hey it's Christmas!

10. Australian radio stations don't play Christmas music (well not with any regularity anyway). I have to say, this is an observation I made for the first time this year. We don't normally listen to a great deal of radio at our home. Most of my radio listening happens in the car going to and from places. This year we happened to be in our car quite a bit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On both days, I couldn't find a single Christmas song on any of the stations. My daughter was requesting Christmas carols and I couldn't find anything. I couldn't believe it. When I thought about it, I remembered some American stations playing Christmas music almost exclusively through the Christmas period. There would surely be at least one station in your regular set of stations in the USA that I would have found a Christmas song on. So my thinking on this is, the Australians like to limit their Christmas carols to the Carols by Candlelight evenings mentioned above. I really have no other explanation as to why there weren't any Christmas songs on the radio on Christmas Day. Odd.

There you have it, my Christmas in Australia observations. Have you ever wondered what Christmas was like in another place? Has this list sparked more questions about Christmas in Australia? Ask. Please. Just ask away. I'd love to dedicate the next post to answering any questions y'all might have about Christmas in the Land Down Under! So go, post them in the comments section...that is if there is anyone actually reading this.


ibbabs97 said...

You know if you learned to make the family candy it is cooked on the stove and wouldn't heat up your house as much.
Also I would have to say that I think it depends on the family as to how much they get dressed up for Christmas. I know now that I am married my married family doesn't usually dress up much. They might be dressed if they came from church, otherwise they are in very casual clothes. Living here in Houston we are even in shorts many years. Know that there would be the many photo ops this year, I made sure each day that my boys were dressed nice. It was a little struggle to have them look nice for 4 days in row but I think we did an ok job.
Cherries at Christmas, Yum. I guess I need to send my oldest to see you for the summer fruits. He was begging for Cantaloupe the other day.

Question: How do you handle opening presents down there. Is it the same as you did back home? We us to open one on Christmas Eve and then open the rest Christmas day.

bw said...

Yes., the stores here are just as bad. Walmart started in late October this year.

Dana said...

I think that the stores in the US replace school supplies with Christmas decorations. They leave some room for Halloween decor which has become more and more popular each year. Then it is full blast into Christmas decor. I think many families are casual now days. People even go very casual to church where I live. The Christmas celebrations that I have attended the last few years were I guess you would say as you did business casual with the women in pants and nice blouses or sweaters and the men in trousers and sweaters.
Our tree lighting in the center of the city did not happen until the beginning of December. There is a light parade that follows with many vehicles lit up with lots of lights. Some homes even have their lights computerized to follow music and put on special displays. One person in my town has special displays three times a night and serves hot chocolate following the display. People flock to see the 7 minute display and tour the yard full of lights.

Bush Babe said...

Interesting observations... always thought it was odd that Santa had to suit up in summer here. Love that tradition now allows cold food for Xmas luncheons... my favourite is fresh Moreton Bay Bugs and oysters...mmmmm.

Great post.