Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Australian Christmas traditions

This time of the year I get quite sentimental, so be warned !!

I used to love Christmas as a child growing up in Australia. As it's high Summer here and a Christmas Day average temp of 25 degrees Celsius we'd take the best of the British traditions and add some of our own Australian ones. A fresh or artificial tree in the house, decorated with hand made or store bought decorations if you could afford them. Crepe paper chain garlands and handmade card stars with glitter on them were usually on our tree at home. The highlight of our Christmas in the 1960's was visiting my Nanna on the North Shore of Sydney and driving home through the city at night to see the stores like David Jones and Mark Foys. They had animated (clockwork) Christmas store windows which drew crowds from all over the suburbs to see the displays of fairy tales and the nativity.

Our Christmas menu back then might include hot chicken, ham or roast pork, or cold versions of them. Turkey wasn't big in Australia until recently. Mum did a mean "pumped leg" , a piece of silverside (beef) soaked in brine by the butcher, which Mum simmered in water with vinegar, brown sugar, onions and cloves. It was delicious served cold with relish or chutney, and economical because it would last for days in the fridge. My Nanna would prepare hot vegetables for Christmas lunch for 18 or so. Roast potatoes, 2 hot meats, peas and carrots, and gravy. Then a traditional boiled Christmas pudding with pre-decimal coins hidden inside for luck, with a little warm custard poured over and a scoop of vanilla icecream or cream. Occasionally we'd have a trifle, an economical dessert for a large group consisting of cut up cake lining a bowl filled with jelly, custard, tinned fruit, cream all layered together. Last weekend I made a punch bowl full for a party, and added flaked chocolate to the top at the last minute. Yum !

After lunch the adults would all have a siesta (with one eye open) while the kids played with their new gifts or ran around outside. These days we have hot and cold meats, seafood, salads, roast vegetables, Christmas pudding or pavlova, cheese cakes, anything goes really. We borrow European traditions, and bring dishes and flavours from all around the world to our Australian Christmas meals.

It became a difficult task co-ordinating Christmas Day visits to both sides of the family once I was a married woman. We got in the habit of having breakfast at home, then Christmas lunch with my in-laws or the evening meal at a relatives home, hosted in turns. This all changed again after my children came along. By then the in-laws would come for Christmas Eve tea, stay the night then we'd all get up early to watch the kids open their gifts. Breakfast became a grand affair with warm croissants, cereal and fruit and orange juice with a touch of Champagne for those who liked it.
They'd go home to prepare lunch for us, then siestas for everyone and more visits in the evening. Eventually it got harder for us to go out with the 4 children all day, so we often had both sides of the family to our home at some point. Everyone would bring a plate of food (or 2) to share. Mum continued Nanna's traditional boiled Christmas pudding after she passed away, and only stopped making the puddings in the last 3 or 4 years when it got too much for her.

This Christmas a new tradition was started. We all visited my oldest brother's home last weekend for a pre-Christmas BBQ with relatives and friends as everyone is now trying to juggle their own grown-up family visits. DH and I joined our adult offspring and my in-laws at my new grandson Riley's home for early Christmas morning breakfast. I'm sure that little boy will have to take over his Dad's study for toy storage, Santa was very generous, LOL. We bought him a toy pull along telephone with a rotary dial, eyes which move and a clacking noise when it moves along. Noisy toys are good ! I found a piggy bank with his name on it, and a cute set of T-shirts with his nickname on them. Even my daughters' baby which is due in February got a few gifts, I bought her a pink rabbit toy and some little one piece romper suits.

At the moment we're recovering at home after the early start to the day, we thought after our kids were grown up that we'd finished with all that, but now the grandchildren are starting to arrive, it's all starting again, VBG.

PS the photo is of the Angel I made for the Stitchin Fingers Christmas Cloth Doll Swap. She now lives at Cindy's place in the USA.

PPS the Santa collection has now increased to 42, following 3 new purchases on Tuesday and 2 Royal Albert santas received as gifts today !!


Paula Hewitt said...

your Christmas in the 60s sounds just like ours in the 70s. the overriding memory is my nanna cooking a hot lunch (roast chicken) for 14 or more - and us piling into the car and driving up to Wollongong for the day. surprisingly when the christmas lunch cooking was inherited by me that tradition got ditched and i do cold ham and salad! She also made 6 or 8 fruitcakes - Im not sure how - I make one for my mum using nannas recipe and thats enough for me!

for some reason I didnt see any photos of Riley in a santa hat ripping open his gifts.....

Robin Olsen said...

Thanks for the kind words about Jack the bulldog on my blog. He needs all the compliments he can get! I loved hearing the details of your Xmas. It all sounds so wonderful, but I will never get used to the notion of it being hot at Xmas.

Sharon said...

Thanks for writing about your Christmas traditions. I often wonder how you celebrate over there. Not so different from ours. Now Chester the squirrel does have a family. I think he is married because this summer he was busy building a nest and she was constantly telling him how to do it. LOL Maybe he left her, I'm not sure. Happy New Year Sharon