On celebrating Christmas abroad.
“Christmas where the gum trees grow
There is no frost and there is no snow
Christmas in Australia’s hot
Cold and frosty is what its not
When the bloom of the Jacaranda tree is here
Christmas time is near”
As bizarre as the above statement might seem, this is the reality for us at the bottom of the globe. In fact this is one of the most well known Christmas songs of our country. Australia has a plethora of cultures and traditions that we mash together to create our holiday season. But the one shared reality for all us Aussies is the sunshine and the heat on Christmas Day. (Click below for the full version!)
So, as weird as that might seem to my British friends, a white Christmas feels just as alien to me. Well wet Christmas, technically. And of all the things I thought I would miss, it is the Aussie Christmas traditions with my family that I miss more than anything.
As a child growing up my particular Christmas went a little like this.
Christmas Eve, my brother, my sister and I were chucked into the car and taken to my Abuela and Abuelo’s place in order to celebrate a strange boganised — Spanish evening. We ate lots of bread and chorizo, enjoyed a Woolworths mud-cake (an Aussie favourite that has me salivating just thinking about it) and ran around the tiny backyard with our cousins, our Dads watching on and laughing. We would then make our way into the living room and watch Carols by Candlelight, shown live from Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne and watch far too many D grade Australian celebrities struggle their way through Away In A Manger (I also announced loudly to anyone who would listen that I would be on that stage one day singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. There is still time guys.)
After being thrown into the car once more we were carted back to Mum’s where we would listen to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album until we fell asleep.
Christmas morning was dependant on our age. As kids, Dad would come round and watch us open our presents with Mum, as adults we sat with Mum and laughed at the gag gift my Mum always loved to give us (last year she gave my brother a weird light up stick with a plastic Pikachu on top. He had no idea what to make of it which made it even funnier.)
Lunch with the British family in the sweltering heat usually consisted of a loads of hungry teenagers loading their plates up with every kind of potato and my Mum yelling at my Grandma to “sit down will ya, your dinner is gonna be freezing!!” (due to the constant airconditioning).
Then all my hungover cousins would take a nap and me and my siblings would whine about wanting to go in the pool until my Mum relented.
Presents would be opened while wrapped in our towels, back yard cricket with a plastic cricket set was dragged into the front yard, the blokes getting way too completive, followed by an afternoon trip with my Dad to my Uncle’s place so we could do the same thing again (food, cricket, and one year, tequila shots).
Christmas was ham, potatoes and heat. Swimming in the pool and washing the dishes with my older cousins. It was sun until 8pm and Michael Buble on repeat.
Now, an adult human living in the UK, Christmas is a bit of a mixed message. Not only does the intense homesickness kick in, and the reminder that my siblings and I haven’t been in the same room for five years, I am also let off the Christmas hook a bit. Not having to really get too close to it, removing myself from any real Christmas spirit.
There are a few little Winter-y things I have taken on without much hestiation.
Some of these favourite adopted Christmas traditions are:
Real Christmas Trees
Snow (when we get it)
Christmas shows (but not Pantomime…sorry I am not onboard with that one.)
Red wine in the pub by said fireplace
Christmas jumpers (and being able to actually wear them!)
My first Christmas day in the UK I worked in a pub. I served other expats their Christmas lunch and pretended I wasn’t jealous and sad and that the double pay (£14 an hour) was worth it. I smiled and I joked and then I cried in the toilets, while I messaged my Sister telling her how much I missed her.
The next morning my boyfriend and I booked our flight home for the following year, not being able to bear the idea of another day as lonely as the one we had been through.
I realise this all sounds rather dramatic, but it wasn’t until I left Australia, that I realised just how special Christmas was to me.
And even now, the thought of not being there this year, despite being with my lovely boyfriend and his gorgeous family, is painful. It feels like something is missing, and there is no way (or point) trying to fill in those gaps.
I am an extremely emotional and romantic person, who puts a lot (and probably too much) into my memories and these ideas surrounding home. But the sunburnt country I pretend so regularly not to miss, stings me with memories when I least expect it.
It’s a Yorkshire accent that reminds me of my Grandma, or a seafood paella that leaves me pining for my Dad’s cooking. A picture of a beach, the smell of the ocean.
And I am building ways to make this place mine on Christmas, eating way too much cheese and watching The Grinch six times in the lead up to the big day, lucky in the comfort that one day I will find my happy medium, a space somewhere between the sun and the rain, that feels like it is my perfect Christmas day. And that hope is, for the moment, enough.