As the first semester is drawing to a close, many of us are looking forward to the delights of a cold, snowy Christmas- save, of course, those of us who originate from the southern hemisphere, in which case the scorching heat of summer is part of the average Christmas experience.
Frequently, I have been asked whether a hot Christmas is a strange experience. Having grown up in Australia and experienced hot Christmases for most of my life, I find it puzzling to even be asked such a question. A Christmas in Australia still includes the mandatory basics: family, gifts, Santa Claus, baking, eating, singing- albeit all in temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius! Of course, this naturally means that an Australian Christmas does differ considerably in certain aspects from its colder twin.
For the majority of Australians, an Aussie Christmas consists of a barbecue and/or a seafood lunch, though this by no means rules out the traditional turkey dinner. Dessert is usually pavlova, a meringue-based treat, topped off with whipped cream and some sort of fruit. Christmas Day itself is spent either by the pool or a trip to the beach and a game of cricket takes place at some point throughout the day. On Boxing Day, Aussies gather around the TV with the previous day’s leftovers, to watch the Sydney to Hobart yacht race or the Boxing Day test match cricket, always Australia versus another country, at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Aside from this, a whole culture has grown up around the hot Christmas. Instead of having his sleigh drawn by reindeer, Santa often harnesses ‘six white boomers’ (large male kangaroos) to draw him across the Australian desert because it is simply too hot for reindeer. Rolf Harris, an Australian entertainer, has helped this image rise to prominence through his song ‘Six White Boomers’. There is even an Australian version of ‘Jingle Bells’, which takes place ‘on a scorching summer’s day’ and references some typically Aussie cultural elements.
Not least, Australia has its own ‘Christmas tree’. Although some families do set up the traditional European tree, most households have a fake substitute, which looks the same but needs less water (that is to say, none at all). Beyond that, there is the locally named Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda), a member of the mistletoe family, which produces yellow flowers during the Christmas season.
A hot Christmas in Australia is certainly a very different experience to the colder equivalent the northern hemisphere is used to, yet it always makes me pause when someone asks me about the ‘strangeness’ of this experience. For those Down Under it is a continual fact of live- and for those who know only the cold version, it is well worth the experience!