It's another Christmas in Australia for us and on this occasion we've decided to post an updated version of an old post from our previous blog. We have now gotten accustomed to holidays on the beach and got used to the Australian Christmas' climate, but for those accustomed to the cold (and sometimes 'white' Christmas), it may be a small shock.
Our first Christmas spent in Australia was such a little shock to us. You have to admit, that it is not easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit in tropical climates. In Brisbane there is no snow, it is not cold, and yet Santa should be dressed in a warm suit, warm fur cap, and ride in a sleigh with reindeer… But it turns out, costume and props can be adapted to Australian conditions and this Brisbane Santa also looks festive, ho ho ho!
Various street artists also try to create the Christmas atmosphere, music and costume themes are all very Christmassy. But when you almost get caught in singing 'jingle bells', those kids in beach attire will run in front of you and ruin everything… Well, adjusting to this hot climate version of Christmas takes a little time.
Australian holidays fall in the middle of summer and this is a fundamental difference between the festive time in Europe and around here. In Brisbane in December the temperature reaches 35 degrees, and as we reported, it's hard to feel the Christmas spirit, such as we remember from Poland, with its snow. What, then, is similar?
Christmas tree and Christmas decorations
Christmas trees can be found not only in homes, but also in stores, the main streets of the city and bars, restaurants and offices. The largest one in Brisbane is in the King George Square, in front of city hall, and its grand lighting up ceremony takes place on one of the first Fridays in December, attracting crowds of onlookers. All lights are solar powered and as you can see there is no shortage of sun here, because the Christmas tree lights up like any other. Similar to Poland, there is also a tradition of the taking down the Christmas tree decorations, at the latest 12 days after Christmas, to avoid bad luck in the New Year.
In addition to Christmas trees, the American tradition of decorating houses and gardens was brought here too, and the most beautifully decorated homes take part in the competition. City organizes special bus tours to the most decorated neighborhoods, this is called 4KQ Christmas Lights Tour and takes place at dusk. Several pictures with the winning houses in 2014 can be seen below.
Singing Christmas carols
This tradition was also brought from Europe and mainly British tunes dominate. During the holiday season various events are organized, where the theme is singing carols. Carols on the Green (Christmas carols picnic), or Carols in the City are big annual events in Brisbane under the auspices of the mayor. In Melbourne, the biggest event is the Carols by Candlelight, which takes place on Christmas Eve and is broadcast live on TV.
Santa Claus and reindeer
Santa can be found everywhere, and although the weather does not go well his traditional outfit, we have seen the Australian versions: dressed as lifeguard on the beach or as a surfer. We have also learned about the local Christmas tradition: on Christmas Eve children leave at the door of the house milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer! Very popular is also Santa riding through the streets in a fire truck, giving lollipops and candy to the kids.
Everyone needs to get a gift and purchasing frenzy lasts throughout December. Perhaps what's different here is that, the budget of the average Australian is slightly higher than elsewhere, - here an average person spends around. $500 on Christmas gifts. Just as in the UK, also popular is to organize with friends a 'secret santa' event, which is buying surprise gifts to randomly allocated friends, this way Santa has previously brought us: a helicopter, a mint plant to be planted in an egg-shaped pot, and a rather raunchy book...
Christmas parties at work
How your work Christmas party will look like depends on where you work. In the public sector, this sort of event can not be formally sponsored by the employer. In this case they often organise a Christmas lunch at a restaurant . But you typically need to pay yourself for everything. Sometimes they organize the so-called training at the end of the year, which includes some sort of formal presentation but the food is free ... In the private sector, it's a whole different story, you hear about Christmas parties at the horse race track, where in addition to drinks, and food, you also get money for horse betting. Other examples include a 'red carpet' event, where people dress up as well-known personalities, or a masquerade party with fortune-tellers, magicians and other atractions on show. These major events are held on Saturdays and you can often bring your partner.
At my (Julita) workplace we had some interesting event under the name of 'stealing santa', or 'thieves' santa claus'. The rules are carefully designed, but to describe them briefly, everyone who bought a ticket got a number, which decided, the order in which gifts are drawn. The lower the ticket the worse for you, because people, that are after you can see, what you get, and instead of drawing their own gift, can simply steal yours, while you have to draw another one in place of the, one that just got stolen. I assure, that everybody had a great fun!
Australian families mainly celebrate Christmas Day (British tradition) and the whole family gathers for a festive dinner. Prepared for this occasion are the most expensive meals, for example roast meat (Sunday roast), ham, roast turkey - often these dishes are served with cherry sauce! Generally, cherries are the fruit no. 1 for the Christmas holidays, and are added to everything, main courses, desserts, ice cream, you can also decorate cakes and table them. Another Christmas dish, very popular here in Queensland are grilled prawns. Many people have told us, that in their home this is a must festive dish.
A lot of people use the holidays as a great opportunity to get away - Christmas and New Year period is the absolute peak season, with full beaches and campsites. Camping-loving Australians move in such crowds, that some places organize around June or July ia draw for spots on campsites for the festive season ... We normally also join the crowd of holidaying Australians during Christmas. This year, we spend the holidays quite peacefully, mostly lying on the beach in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, which we will describe in a post next week.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers!
NOTE: Thispost is an updated version of the entry, which appeared previously on our old blog “Julita i Wojtek w Krainie Kangurów”.