As a former POM raised and living in Australia, I find Christmas a little disconcerting. The family tradition was very much the northern hemisphere “snow, crackling fire and rich comfort food”, but this doesn’t seem to sit well in a hot Australian Christmas.
On the other hand, the traditional Aussie Christmas barbecue or seafood dishes also don’t seem to fit for me. BBQ seems a little too casual, and I am the world’s pickiest seafood eater (there are so many things I don’t eat) so seafood doesn’t seem to work for us either. Cooking seafood also terrifies me – so easy to overcook, it doesn’t go with a cooking style that involves a glass or two of wine being consumed during the process.
My extended family is now scattered across the continent so a large family Christmas is out of the question. But I am keen to develop some traditions for my children, so they can look back on Christmases and remember fondly. So here is my list of the good, the bad and the ugly of Christmas at my house.
– It’s stone fruit season! Satsuma plums and fresh cherries. YUM! Father Christmas always brought Satsuma plums to put in the stocking when I was young. (We had a plum tree in the backyard, so I suspect he was being very thrifty!)
– Phone calls from relatives across the continent. So much better than the major family arguments in person. Fifteen minutes of being nice to inappropriate uncle Bob (names changed to protect the guilty) is so much better than watching him gradually unwind over the course of a day and a six-pack or two and say things we will all regret. It also solves the faction problems – the aunts who haven’t spoken to each other for near on three decades can be easily dealt with separately.
– I have two special Christmas recipes. They are Christmas recipes because they are so yummy that if I made them during the year I would be the size of a bus. Yoyo biscuits (similar to Melting Moments but I have a particularly good recipe) and Chocolate Fudge. So good I get requests for them from neighbours and family.
– Mince Pies! YUM! We start buying Mince Pies as soon as they arrive in the shops (shortly after Easter, it would seem) and the children take them in their school lunches, we heat them and have them with custard for dessert, or just much them as a portable snack. I used to stock up when they were on sale after Christmas and freeze them, but I think everyone else has got into this act as the supermarkets seem to run out quite quickly. (I would include a photo of some mince pies here but they have been eaten. You will have to imagine them yourselves.)
– Christmas lists. Now the children are heading into teenager-hood, the Christmas wish lists are getting longer – and each item seems to be electronic and therefore by definition, expensive. Clearly they have been raised in a consumer culture and have taken to it like ducks to water. The nagging starts – well it would seem the nagging starts about January.
– What to have for Christmas lunch? This is particularly an issue if we are having guests. How can I manage to present something delicious, attractive and appropriate for the season (and the pressure has been ramped up since Master Chef set a higher bar for amateur chefs!) And warm and on-time for whenever we decide to sit down for lunch. And preferably without having to spend the entire morning in the kitchen preparing and cooking. Are they expecting a Turkey? Will a turkey roll suffice or does this look pragmatic and not really entering into the spirit of the season? Do they know I don’t eat ham and therefore won’t be cooking one either? This year our neighbour has kindly invited us for lunch so I can concentrate on hors d’oeuvre, cheeses, dips and crackers, and desserts. These are all my strong suits.
– An increasingly bedraggled Christmas Tree, with tangled tinsel, the occasional ornament lost to the dog (they look like balls being dangled in front of his face – why wouldn’t he bite them and run off with them). The children decorate the tree so there is a glut of decorations in the middle of the tree, the top has a lot of tinsel that has been tossed in the general direction, and the bottom is naked (at least in part to discourage the dog). It is also a tree that you should look at from one side only – decorations are at the front, not around the back or sides.
– The consumeristic Christmas wish list could probably sit here as well as in the “bad” list.
– Family who can’t decide until the last minute whose house the think they might grace for Christmas Day. If you’ve been invited, say yes or no. Don’t hang out to see where you get the best offer, it is insulting to us all.
– Family who insist on inviting the ex-wife to everything. No, I don’t particularly want to spend every Christmas for the rest of my life making small talk with his ex. Move on people, it’s been over two decades.
And yes, I know. First World Problems.
What are your Christmas traditions?