AN AUSTRALIAN MERRY CHRISTMAS
To help you get into the festive spirit we would like to provide our quick guide to an Australian Christmas from Santas sledge to the great food, decorations and the places people go to enjoy the big day and much more. We want you to fit right in on your first Christmas in Australia as it could be only a year away!
The first visitor to any home on Christmas night is Santa. When he arrives in Australia he gives his reindeer a break and instead uses six white boomers.
So what is a white boomer? It is a large, male Kangaroo that has white fur. When they move fast across the dry sands of Australia, they make a booming noise so they earned the name boomers. Most boomers are not white by the way!
So don't be surprised if your children see six Kangeroo flying through the air on Christmas night.
What are the essential ingredients for an Australian Christmas Dinner?
Christmas in Australia means prawns. Lots and lots of them. Some folk prefer Kings, others Tigers and brave souls will take on giant Banana prawns but the one thing they must be is fresh. If you’re just planning on shelling and eating them, look for cooked prawns that appear bright with their antennae intact and eyes shiny. They should never smell fishy but have only a slight sea brine smell. Buy what you need, and take it home quickly. Like most shellfish, prawns don’t keep, so if you’re buying ahead of time keep your purchases tightly wrapped in their original packaging and eat them all within 36 hours, which means prawns are the last thing you should buy for your table.
That’s part of the rationale behind traditions like the famed Sydney Fish Market Christmas seafood marathon, now in its 19th year. More than 120 tonnes of prawns and 70,000 dozen oysters are expected to be sold over the 36 hours, supplying not only the city but countless regional and country vendors. Now’s the time to look out for their distinctive handwritten signs on roadsides if you’re outside a city and save their mobile numbers. If you’re in doubt place your order now, or yours will be the table set with seafood sticks and fish fingers.
If you’ve had a flush year or you’re feeling generous, there’s nothing more festive than an Australian crayfish or marron, incorrectly referred to as a ‘lobster’ which, lacking claws, it can’t be. But with demand for our crays vastly outstripping supply, prices these days hover around $150 a kilo, making even a serving for two worth around $80. Better value – not to mention more fun – are smaller freshwater crayfish, known as yabbies. They’ll be yours for around $35 per kilo. All you need now is cocktail sauce and some lime wedges. Don’t forget a bowl for the peelings, and freeze the scraps until bin day to avoid your wheelie going nuclear.
Darwin has its mango madness, Brisbane has its mango daiquiris and Christmas in Australia is just not the same without a tray of these beauties sitting on a table or cooling in the fridge. Where we used to only have one sort of mango – the delectable Kensington Pride or Bowen mango – there are now a plethora of varieties perfect for serving to guests or just savouring yourself. Choose firm, plump fruit with no wrinkles and ideally oozing just a little sweet nectar: this is the time to lift them to your nose and smell your way to perfection. The red-blushed Calypso variety is a stringless favourite and newer R2E2 – a giant, sought-after specimen perfect for keeping in fruit bowls due to its slow ripening nature. Around Christmas Eve they start coming down in price but be careful, too ripe and mangoes take on a whiff of kerosene as their enzymes break down and the flesh goes brown. And what to do with them? Smoosh them into cocktails, dice them for salsa to serve with prawns, crabs or even roast pork. Shave green mangoes for Thai-style salads. And whatever you do, don’t chuck out the seeds – there’s plenty of delicious flesh around them to warrant an over-the-sink eating session.
There’s no way you can miss out on booze when it comes to a Christmas, and our hot weather dictates something cold, crisp and sharable. Australians are warming up to what the Spanish do and for an increasing number of us nothing pairs better with a ham or turkey than a crisp, salt-air manzanilla sherry, enjoyed ice cold with the sand between your toes. Fresh same-year Riesling is another top choice and pairs brilliantly with seafood, while alternate varieties like Austria’s grüner veltliner or Sardinian Vermentino are now being produced here, with delicious results. Whatever you choose, make sure you’ve got something nice to drink it out of – with a stem, if possible – and chill it overnight before the big day with a deep ice bucket to keep it cold by the pool or table. Then settle in, savour your surroundings and take a moment to relax. You’re in Australia – and Christmas here is like nowhere else on Earth. Of course, there are plenty of ice cold beers to choose from if you prefer to keep things simple.
Where To Celebrate Christmas in Australia
Most people go to the beach or parks (near the beach), while teenagers and young adults like to enjoy a far more relaxed Christmas than the traditional European style Christmas dinner with their friends. Across Australia groups of friends and family will meet up for a BBQ in a public space.
Once the presents have been shared out, Facebook updated and the family wished a Merry Christmas the younger folk will make their way to a picnic with friends which will often involve some form of a ball game (touch rugby is played by girls and boys) or a day of surfing. Christmas day is one of the busiest days of the year for Australian lifesavers as the relaxing atmosphere can lead to young people taking more of risk than they would normally. That said the day always ends as it started in good spirits and enjoyed by all.
Families with younger children will also go to the beach as being outdoors on Christmas day is all part of the fun. Meeting up with loved ones, neighbours and school friends on Christmas day all adds to the fun. This is a big change from the UK where a tight family unit will spend the day around a table and then the TV within one home. In Australia, people like to go out and be social to share Christmas as a community. The weather obviously helps with this approach!
In Australia, Christmas comes in the towards the beginning of the summer holidays! Children have their summer holidays from mid-December to early February, so some people might even be camping at Christmas as this is a popular way to enjoy the outback and walkabouts.
Australians also decorate their houses with bunches of 'Christmas Bush', a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream coloured flowers. In summer the flowers turn a deep shiny red over a period of weeks (generally by the week of Christmas in Sydney).
In each State capital city, there are a large Carols by Candlelight service. Famous Australian singers like The Wiggles, John Farnham, Anthony Warlow, Colin Gery, Niki Webster and many more help to sing the carols. These carol services, held in different cities, are broadcast on TV across Australia. There are also huge Christmas pageants in each state capital city, that are also broadcast across the country. Most towns and cities have festivals and parades. In some places, there is a fireworks display at the local park.
It can be ironic but popular Christmas carols are still sung in Australia during Christmas time such as “Let It Snow” and “Frosty the Snowman.” Most of Australia’s immigrants came from England and Ireland, bringing their Christmas customs with them. The weather may be hot but that will not stop them from being one with the world in harmony!
We wish you and your family a Very Merry Christmas.