Australia has always had a different type of Christmas experience because of the confusion of our Anglo Celtic heritage and the Australian climate. Many of us prefer to have our Christmas celebratory meal at lunchtime rather than dinner. Some opt for the full baked meal including hot turkey and side vegetables followed by steaming plum pudding and brandy butter. Others relax at picnics or barbecues with seafood and salads.
For most part of the nineteenth century Christmas Day was marked with a heavy English style dinner, often Christmas Eve. Neighbours would sometimes be invited and, depending on the situation, work-hands would join the family. Whatever the case the meal emulated what was traditionally eaten ‘back home’ in Europe. Supplies to the bush were erratic and circumstance often more unpredictable. This was, of course, a time when the majority of Australians lived in the country. Invention was often the mother of necessity and kangaroo or even wombat was disguised and presented as roast beef, swan as turkey.
The meal, provisions allowing, usually had several courses including entrée, soup, fish, meat, pudding, sweets and fruit. Men on the track made do with what they had – damper with currants – and a bottle of rum or brandy to toast the event. Some drovers arranged to meet at a particular water bore where they celebrated. Wherever the day was celebrated the stock still had to be fed, cows milked, horses and bullocks tethered – life goes on.
Here is a short list of some surviving Christmas traditions familiar to many Australian families:
Depending on what brand of Christianity.
Not a Christian – never fear – this doesn’t appear to stop Australians celebrating the year’s signpost.
There are numerous traditions associated with the Christmas tree including a ‘dressing of the tree’ gathering, the decorations (as a kid we made Christmas bells out of silver milk bottle tops), the placement of the Christmas tree star on top of the tree, the display of presents around the tree and the post Christmas date the tree must be brought down.
Although disappearing the Yuletide eggnog (there are various recipes but staples are nutmeg, egg and brandy or rum).
They come in all shapes and sizes and decoration. Most include nuts and fruits to signify fertility and abundance for the coming year. One important feature of the fruitcake is that you live a year longer for every slice eaten at another person’s house on Christmas morning.
This also come in all shapes and sizes including the most traditional of all – which is shaped like a canon ball. In year’s gone by most were steamed and made some time prior to Christmas Day, In pre-decimal currency it was traditional to add three-penny or six-penny pieces to the mix. Gold diggers in the 1850s and 60s added tiny gold nuggets– a boon for the local dentists.
There is a large repertoire of Christmas carols. Although street caroling was popular it appears to have been replaced by singing (usually somewhat awkwardly) around the Christmas tree or dining table.
Creating or buying a wreath of twisted vines and ‘holly’ type decorations is still popular in Australia – these are usually placed on the front door twelve days before Christmas.
The jolly old gent is often welcomed by leaving out a small glass of milk (sometimes laced with brandy) and a slice of fruit cake. The old man (literally) eats, drinks and runs.
It is traditional to exchange gifts at Christmas. Some families and circles elect to do this in a ’round robin’ whereby they are given a name to buy for rather than buy for the entire group.
One of the silliest Christmas traditions involves the placement of bon bons, paper pull ‘things’ that pop and present the stronger puller with a variety of even sillier gifts including the lamest of lame jokes and a bright paper hat – which one is expected to wear during the meal.
There are Xmas hamper boxes to suit most incomes and many businesses distribute hampers to their favoured clients.
Many businesses – industrial and commercial celebrate by hosting a Christmas lunch or office or factory party on the last week of work.
In days gone by many factories hosted oysters, prawns and a keg – that was before seafood prices escalated and police RBT spoiled most of the fun.
Although they are rapidly disappearing there are some classic Christmas recordings that have been played for decades. ‘White Christmas’ (Bing Crosby), Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Little Prince’, Danny Kaye’s rendition of Tubby the Tuba being the top three all-time favourites.
The email has knocked this one around – fewer mailed cards are sent however the email Christmas card, including many that sing to the recipient, are an extension of this tradition.
Another new tradition is that of sending greetings to one’s email lists – via mobile telephones. Some use simple rhymes, others send traditional carols, jokes or computerized images.
Many Australians prefer to celebrate on the day after Christmas Day – it is traditionally an out of doors event – beach, harbour, bush barbecue etc. It is also the start of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race – a major event in our sporting calendar. Boxing Day also signifies that other great tradition – the advent of the major retail sales.
Many Australians host a Christmas styled hot dinner in the middle of winter – a far more satisfying way to eat the traditional hot meal.
Q: Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?
A: Because he had low elf esteem.
Q: How does Peter Garrett’s household keep Christmas politically correct?
A: On Christmas morning, they give the presents TO the tree.
Q: What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus?
Christmas, and the period leading up to it, produces an avalanche of emails similar to the following:
Signs You Have Had Too Much Holiday Cheer
You strike a match and light your nose.
You take off your shoes and wade in the potato salad.
You hear a duck quacking and it’s you.
You tell your best joke to the rubber plant.
You tell everyone you have to go home… and the party’s at your place.
You have to hold on to the floor to keep from sliding off.
You pick up a roll, and butter your watch.
The first reindeer seen in a bar
One evening, in a busy lounge in the snowy mountains, a reindeer walked in the door, bellied up to the bar and ordered a martini. Without batting an eye, the bartender mixed and poured the drink, set it in front of the reindeer, and accepted the twenty-dollar bill from the reindeer’s hoof.
As he handed the reindeer some coins in change, he said, “You know, I think you’re the first reindeer I’ve ever seen in here.”
The reindeer looked hard at the coins and said, “Hmmmpf. Let me tell you something, mate. At these prices, I’m the last reindeer you’ll see in here.”
I want to see something really cheap
After being away on business for a week before Christmas, Tom thought it would be nice to bring his wife a little gift.
“How about some perfume?” he asked the cosmetics clerk. She showed him a bottle costing $50.
“That’s a bit much,” said Tom, so she returned with a smaller bottle for $30.
“That’s still quite a bit,” Tom groused.
Growing disgusted, the clerk brought out a tiny $15 bottle.
Tom grew agitated, “What I mean,” he said, “is I’d like to see something real cheap.”
So the clerk handed him a mirror.