“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”…it’s not!! In fact anyone caught doing anything with an open fire between the months of December and April is likely to incur a huge fine in Australia, as it’s “bushfire season”! The Country Fire Service personnel would not be best pleased to be summoned from their Christmas Day lunches for reason of chestnuts being roasted on an open fire and starting a bush fire that’s now spread over 15 hectares or more!
With the absence of snow or even a white hoar frost to make the season traditional for us expats living in the land Down Under, Christmas comes with a whole new meaning.
Normally Christmas Day in Australia dawns under clear skies of brilliant blue, and with most of the population living around the coastline, that tinkling that we thought could have been made by tiny reindeer bells will probably just be the sound of the waves gently playing across white sandy beaches nearby.
In another hour or two, the first of the early morning walkers will be strolling along the pristine beaches enjoying a Christmas Day walk before breakfast, which will probably not be all that different from Christmas breakfasts being enjoyed all around the world.
In the weeks leading up to the big event, parents will have attended school concerts to listen to their offspring performing the Australian version of the famous reindeer song, which has the chorus line “Six White Boomers Leading Santa’s Sleigh”. It’s really quite sensible having six kangaroos leading the sleigh, when you think about it. After all, here in Australia we try to avoid the “red nose” look due to the damage it can cause health-wise, and reindeers wearing white sun-block cream across their noses just doesn’t conjure up the right mental picture somehow!
Christmas Day in Australia is a day of chaos on the roads. Cars are eagerly packed with food, bottles of wine, potted poinsettias, plates of mince pies, gaily wrapped gifts, small children and elderly grandparents crammed against all the beach paraphernalia as families set off to join the queues of other cars taking to the roads en route to share the day with various other family members. Sadly, the happiest time of the year is also the bleakest for many, with the road toll at its highest over the Christmas period.
Turkey, chicken, ham, pork, lobster (crayfish), oysters, scallops, octopus or prawns, anything and everything can be found on the Australian Christmas dining table or on plates balanced precariously on laps sitting beside the swimming pool, BBQ or down on the beach, all washed down with copious amounts of the “amber nectar” which has been lovingly carried home by the slab, held shoulder-high by the men of the house, in the weeks leading up to the big day.
The Australian Christmas day is a far cry from those distant memories of a much different time… supping warm mulled wine or eggnog whilst watching the burning Yuletide log crackling merrily in the open hearth, as the sky outside turns a darker shade of night, making the lights twinkle even more brightly.