How Do We Really Celebrate Christmas Down Under?

A few weeks ago, in the Dad Bloggers’ Facebook group, one American dad (hey, that sounds like a good name for a television show) shared a photo of a Christmas book that his child was being read. The book is called ‘Spot the Reindeer at Christmas’ by Marc Mones. In the photo, he had the book open at the pages where the author writes about Christmas in Australia which, as many books written for children about celebrating Christmas around the world always state, us Australians tend to have a barbecue on a beach on Christmas Day.

Photo Credit: Nick D of Dad with a Blog
Photo Credit: Nick D of Dad With a Blog (used with permission)

This was the comment that my fellow blogger posted along with the photo of the book;

“Australian dads: is this spot on, stereotypically offensive, or somewhere in the middle? Kangaroos pulling the sleigh? And if you do Christmas at the beach, I have two words for you.”

The blogger posing the question to the dozen or so Dad Bloggers from Australia goes by the name of Nick D and his blog is Dad With a Blog. You can check out one of his own posts about Christmas by clicking here.

The book that Nick posted the photo of was published in September 2014. I have to say that shocks me a little bit. Mostly because this paints a picture of the bronzed Aussie that dates well back to the 1950s. In 1955, when my mother was 12-years-old and living in the north of London, England, she acquired a book that was published the same year. The book is called ‘Fun Around the World’ by Frances W. Keene. The book talks about things that children like to do from all around the world.

fun around the world book
Fun Around the World by Frances W. Keene

I still have a copy of the book which was passed down to me from my mother’s book collection when she died. The book has lost the red dust cover sometime back before I ever read it, and when I was a child I took to it with water colours, textas (that’s what we call soft-tipped markers in Australia), and pens and coloured in some of the pages. The page about Australia always made me laugh because possibly it was representative of some Australians back in 1955, but thirty years later when I was almost the same age my mother was when she received the book, it didn’t represent me or many of my school friends.

The page about Australia from the 1955 book, Fun Around the World
The page about Australia from the 1955 book, Fun Around the World. Defacing of the book was probably done by me.

Although this book is not solely about Christmas celebrations from different cultures, it does mention how a few countries celebrate that time of year. I know that, for the most part, it’s a hard thing for most Northern Hemisphere people to get their heads around, but yes, Christmas in Australia, and for our closest neighbour New Zealand, is celebrated in summer which means that there is no snow, but for some, plenty of sand.

Both my parents were born and raised in England, not too far out of London. They lived there until their twenties when they moved to Canada for a few years where they had their first child, my older brother. They would have experienced quite a few white Christmases, but as for me, having spent 41 Christmases always in Australia, I have never witnessed this. Although it is seen as a hot and dry continent, there have been plenty of Christmas Days all around the country where we have seen plenty of rainfall on the day.

Christmas Day was yesterday, and in my part of Sydney the day started warm and sunny. By mid-morning it became overcast and cooler and just before midday it started raining. The rain lasted no more than an hour, after which the day warmed back up and by mid-afternoon it was hot enough for a swim in the backyard pool as friends of ours, and guests at our Christmas lunch ended up doing after they left our house. Today, in most of the Commonwealth countries, the day after Christmas Day is known as Boxing Day.

In Australia, Boxing Day means three things; the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the first day of the Boxing Day Test which is a cricket match played by the Australian Cricket Team versus the current touring nation (this year, it’s the West Indies), and for some, the Boxing Day Sales begin seeing some people waiting in line at department stores in the major cities around the country from the early hours of the morning.

Growing up in Sydney meant that our tradition for the day after Christmas was bundling the family in the car and heading down to the South Head of Sydney Harbour to watch the yachts as they made their way our to open water. By my early teen years this changed to my family jumping in the car and driving 100kms (62 miles) north to the Central Coast and spending the day at one of the beaches around The Entrance. But on Christmas Day, it was never a case of us having a barbecue on the beach as all the children’s books will have you believe “every” Aussie family does.

For us, having the ties to Mother England, our Christmas Day tradition was that of waking up and having breakfast before handing out the gifts we bought for each other. The mornings would see the neighbourhood children run outside and show each other what they received and you could tell those kids who received bikes, skateboards, and roller-skates as they were riding them up and down the streets showing off there new mode of transport. Even though the days could be really hot, my parents would, mostly my father, would slave over a hot stove and oven preparing a “traditional” winter style meal of roast turkey with a stuffing to die for that was created by my grandfather, roast ham, roast potatoes better than any you’ve ever had, and steamed vegetables which, as a child I had to have swimming in a huge pool of gravy on my plate otherwise I wouldn’t eat them. And to think that a huge bowl of vegetables is my main meal now.

As our family extended, with my brother and I getting partners and our families combining our celebrations into one, the traditional turkey and ham was still present, but the feasts became larger and more Australianised thanks to the many and varied colder dishes including huge bowls of prawns and gourmet salads. Although I no longer partake in this part of the Australian tradition myself, seafood is considered by many Australians the thing to have on Christmas Day.

Christmas in Australia… We don’t wake up rushing to the window expecting to see snow, but we do rush to the local servo to see if Santa has delivered two pallets of ice to keep our drinks cold.

I put the call out to a few of my fellow Dad Bloggers from around the country, and a couple from New Zealand as well to see how they would be spending Christmas Day this year. Although I was planning on posting this a week ago before the big day, both work and family life got in the way (the latter I don’t mind, but when work keeps me from writing…. I’ll stop there in case my colleagues are reading this, haha).

I asked three simple questions;

  1. Who are you spending it with?
  2. What are you serving for the meal (also, will the “main” meal lunch or dinner)?
  3. Where will it take place?

Seamus (pronounced Shaymus) a.k.a. The Dadinator from Dadinating the Country Side was the first to get back to me;

  1. I am spending Christmas Day with my in-laws (they’re about to travel to India, so it will be the last chance for a gathering for a few weeks), after spending Christmas Eve with my mum and the my Mother-in-Law’s Family. I will also go to my uncle’s in the afternoon, possibly staying for dinner, before coming home.
  2. The “main” meal will be lunch and will be seafood/BBQ.
  3. At my In-Law’s place in Melbourne. They leave near the beaches of Mentone. Whether we eat indoors or outdoors depends entirely on the weather.

You can check out a Christmas post he wrote by clicking here.

Brian from Dadding Full Time wrote;
  1. Spending Christmas day with immediate family: Tanya (wife) and Charlie (son) and the gestating creature inside Tanya, plus Tanya’s mum and step-father who are visiting from California, plus our surrogate New Zealand family, from whom we rented a place for a couple years, then became fast friends with them. About 20 or so in total.
  2. It’s to be a beach BBQ (pictures of the beach to follow), so we’ll do a classic Kiwi sausage sizzle. Plus I’ll make American hot dogs on a white roll with caramelised onions bathed in Tabasco sauce. We call that “The Dogs of War.” The usual sides and whatnot that you’d find at a beach bbq.
  3. It’ll be at the beach! A five minute walk from our house, giant pohutukawa tree overlooking the sand and the volcano across the shipping channel where all the sailboats and tankers and cruise ships skim past. Details: Cheltenham Beach, Balmain Reserve. The body of water is called the Hauraki Gulf, we are in the Waitemata Harbour, and the volcano is Rangitoto.

You can check out a Christmas post he wrote by clicking here.

Ross from The Daddysphere wrote;

Christmas in New Zealand is for me, a peculiar affair. I was brought up in England where, as much as a religious festival, it was a welcome reprieve from the cold drudgery of winter. Here in the southern hemisphere, whilst it isn’t quite the beginning of summer, the weather is certainly starting to warm up.

Everywhere I go I see familiar icons of the festive period; Christmas trees, candles, snowmen and snowflakes. Santa is also a familiar figure here, but I have to say I struggle seeing him in a pair of shorts with a surfboard tucked under his arm.

This year we (me, my wife and three kids) will be spending Christmas with my sister, and her partner in Taupo, a small town on the edge of one of the world’s largest lakes. My dad and step mother have flown over from the UK to spend Christmas with us. We’ll be having a traditional Christmas roast lunch, with turkey and ham and assorted vegetables, and we are all really looking forward to spending some time together.

You can check out his blog by clicking here.
Jason from Tassie Dad wrote;
  1. Who are you spending it with? Archer, Kayla and I will be joined by my parents, my grandparents (mum’s parents), my aunt (mum’s sister), my cousin (my aforementioned aunt’s daughter) as well as my cousin’s two kids.
  2. What are you serving for the meal (also, will the “main” meal lunch or dinner)? Lunch will be roast chicken and roast lamb (as well as plenty of sides/salads and desserts). Dinner will be roast pork and turkey.
  3. Where will it take place? Lunch will be at my parents with all of the family, dinner will be at our place with just us and my parents.

You can check out his blog by clicking here.

David, who heads up the Aussie Dad Bloggers page featuring 13 other bloggers wrote;

  1. We spend Christmas day with my side of the family. We travel to my cousins about 30 kms from Melb CBD as they have a nice space for entertaining, along with a pool to keep everyone happy, particularly the kids. We have an Au Pair with us this year from Germany, so we’ll be able to let her experience a good Aussie Christmas.
  2. Lunch consists of every meat possible…well not quite, but chicken, turkey, ham, pork, lamb, beef. We have roast vegies, and many sides. There’s always chocolates on the table, and we will, without fail have a home made Christmas pudding with home made custard. Then there’s always trifle, fruit cake…and who knows what else… lastly, there will be a few beers consumed, the odd scotch, the last few years there’s been Sienna or some other type of bubbly red. There’s also been a trend towards cocktails, such as ‘Quick Fucks’ the past few years.
  3. We typically have a family Christmas with my wife’s side of the family a couple of months earlier.

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