Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Downunder

Hi, I am Rosalie Skinner and Australian author of Fantasy and Science Fiction. While you are heading into a cool Christmas I thought I might share a few thoughts on how my family celebrates Christmas in summer. It's not flash, but it is fun.

Living on the underside of the world gives us Aussies a different perspective on Christmas and the festive season. Rather than conform to tradition, our family has taken the opportunity to set our own parameters for celebrating Christmas.

Here Christmas arrives in Summer and the weather is usually perfect. Friends return to be with family and there is often not a spare bed in the house over the holidays.
Sunshine, afternoon thunderstorms, sea breezes and balmy evenings make for perfect holiday conditions. With the golden sand and harbor less than a mile away, and an in-ground pool in the back yard and air conditioning, there is little excuse for overheating in the humid conditions. Each afternoon a sea breeze makes life pleasant if the day’s heat has been exhausting.

On the lead up to Christmas we decorate the house with lights and enjoy having the neighbors’ kids come and view our efforts. Santa often cruises the local streets, riding on the local Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade truck. Santa is always red faced and often attired in open sandals rather than big black boots.
Shopping is probably the same the world over.

So, Christmas day arrives. It can often be a scorching day, with temperatures over 30 deg C. Baking is not recommended in the heat. Even so there is way too much food, drink and conversation. Family, extended family and friends gather to celebrate. That’s pretty much what happens everywhere I guess.

We don’t go for the traditional baked dinner. Ample amounts of cold ham, turkey, chicken, seafood, salads, bacon and banana rolls, a new favorite: Peter Evan’s bbq spare ribs in rum and coke, ambrosia, avocado, fresh fruit and lots of cold drink are consumed during lunch. Desserts tend to extend into the afternoon between swims and relaxation. Family members bring their specialty dishes for both courses.

Unless it is cool, desserts are often not Christmas puddings or cake, but homemade pavlova, trifle, ice cream Christmas cake, homemade tiramisu. Again fresh fruit is popular. Mango, peach, nectarine, kiwi fruit, cherries and the ever popular strawberry all are bountiful at this time.

Christmas tends to mean beach, surf, sunburn, sunscreen and mosquito repellant. The sounds of cicadas, blowflies, rolling surf, thunderstorms, mosquitoes and guitars strumming while the kids sing are all part of the Christmas spirit. Although the smell of sunscreen and mossie coils burning are overpowered by the mouthwatering aroma of barbequed onions and marinated  spare ribs.

Lying in a hammock, sipping a cold drink and listening to the drone of conversation, pleasantly cool from a swim and taking time out between meals… it doesn’t get better than this.

Remember to pace yourself because Boxing day is a huge picnic day.

Among friends here the tradition is to venture out on Boxing day into the heat and sunshine and play Cricket, emulating our national test team. My sons’ friends gather to remember one of the boy’s mother who passed away a few years ago. During their childhood she used to host a memorable cricket match. These days the event is still memorable. Everyone enjoys the picnic atmosphere while the brave manage to play some sort of a game while imbibing varying amounts of alcohol. Sunburn, hangover and muscle aches are guaranteed for players and on every occasion Cricket wins the day.
I guess that’s pretty much how our family celebrates Christmas downunder.
Happy Christmas.

For those interested in the tastes:
Ambrosia; Sour cream mixed with marshmallows and mandarin segments. Sounds sweet? It is! Believe me. It is served as a salad though, rather than a dessert. 
Bacon and Banana rolls; Wrap bacon around a cut banana and barbeque it till the bacon is cooked.
Christmas ice cream cake; In a large domed mixing bowl take 4litres/1gallon of vanilla ice cream, soften and mix in dried fruit mix and a dash of your favorite liqueur. Mix and re freeze. Serve dome side up. For kids you could leave out the alcohol.
Trifle; sponge cake soaked in jelly, sherry (or your choice of alcohol), set with fruit, covered in custard and cream.
Pavlova; A meringue base covered with cream and fresh fruit. Great for summer time.
Peter Evans’ Barbequed Spare Ribs in Rum and Coke… American style spare ribs marinated for two days in a mix of rum and coke and various sauces. Rum and Coke Ribs  The only problem with these is not having enough.

Recipes for Ribs and Tiramisu are more complex. Follow the links here or visit my blog at


Wendy said...

Hi Rosalie,
You've summed up an Aussie Christmas perfectly.Most of my family and friends do it your way. That's what I should do but my mum stuck to the traditional baked turkey and Christmas pud with threepences in it, so I have followed her way. I'm overdue for a change, and I'm very interested in those marinated ribs and Ambrosia. Thanks for the recipes. Merry Christmas.

Rosalie Skinner said...

With the weather we are having Wendy, it could be a year for baking those Christmas puddings after all. Anything to dry out the place!

Unknown said...

Hey, whether we live in areas where it's winter, like I do, or areas where it's summer like you, the best part of Christmas is celebrating it with family and friends. Have a great holiday season Rosalie.:-)

Unknown said...

When I lived in California, I hated the fact that we had 80 degree days on Christmas. I love living in the South because I truly see what it's like to have four seasons. A woman once a neighbor for a short time told me she couldn't adjust to California because she preferred Maine where the seasons really changed. I know what she means now. Love it, and loved your post.

Charlie said...

Hi Rosalie,

What a treat to see how those 'down under' celebrate Christmas. Too often, we think life is the same as in our own little world. But it is fun to see the variety, yet know we are on the same page when it comes to celebrating the reason for the season. Thanks for sharing.
C.K. Volnek

Rosalie Skinner said...

Thanks Wendy, Kat, Ginger and Charlie for commenting. Have a safe and happy Christmas wherever you are!

Roseanne Dowell said...

What a vivid picture you showed us with words. Christmas here is cold and often snowy. It's hard to imagine it being warm elsewhere. Thanks for sharing your Christmas with us.

Killarney said...

We were offered a job on King Island in Australia last year and I will always regret not taking it. It is #1 on my list of places to see one day along with Killarney Ireland (for which I am named for).

Rosalie Skinner said...

Rosanne, We try to imagine Christmas with snow. It would be like a fairy tale! We carefully make pretend snow as Christmas craft or use spray on snow for effect. It all has to be heat proof!
Killarney, King Island is an awesome destination. Well worth a visit, though living there could prove interesting.
I would love to travel to Ireland too. One day!

AnneMarie Brear said...

No matter what the weather, stinking hot or cool, we have a roast dinner with all the trimmings, it's being of English descent. My parents are from Yorkshire England and so our Christmases were still very English and I much prefer them that way.
We always held huge cricket matches on Boxing Day. Oh, the memories.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Boxing day isn't boxing day without Cricket. :)
Tradition is important and there is something to be said for the whole baked dinner. It was when my children grew up enough to help organise things and after sweating through a few, my family voted to try some cooler ideas. They enjoy finding new recipes and adding to the menu. Whatever is on offer, it is the company and the fellowship bringing us together that is precious.
Thanks for commenting Anne. I hope you have good weather this year. Should be good for baking! Happy Christmas to you

Sue Perkins said...

Not sure if you do the same as New Zealand. Due to it being warm at Christmas - although not as hot as you've mentioned - we have a mid-winter Christmas in June. Not quite the same, but people get together and have barbecues, meals etc. and some of the stores also join in. Merry Christmas everyone.

Lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lin said...

Ah My Dyslexia hits again. It's been acting up a lot the last few days. That's why I had to delete the comment I had originally posted, make the correction on the multitude of mishmashed words and repost here again.

Your Christmas celebration sounds much like our July 4th celebrations here in the States. And I adore Ambrosia. Am going to have to try the banana bacon rolls. They sound intriguing.

When I was a girl I loved sitting in the kitchen staring out the huge picture window up to the spotlights embedded beneath the eaves and watch the magic of snowstorms glittering in the light's beam. I could sit there with my nose pressed against the cold glass for hours enthralled by Nature's beauty feeling small, but awed.

I also remember six foot snow drifts that we had to crawl along on the top on our hands and knees (If we tried to walk upright, we'd sink through the drift)to get the one mile to the Country Store. But the reflections of the Christmas lights on the new blanket of snow was magical to a seven year old girl enthralled by the vast enchantment of Christmas and winter.

We DID have other things in the summer that were just as exciting, but I think I'll save them for another time.

Thanks Rosalie for sharing the Aussie Christmas. Australia is one of the places I have always longed to visit. I doubt I'll ever get there in life, so your words allow me to imagine.