Christmas Traditions

7 12 2011

home-made Christmas pine cones

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.

The Good

– 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.)

The Bad

– 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.

We hope you get lots of pressies

– 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.

The Ugly

– 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.

Merry Christmas!

What are your Christmas traditions?

Feeling like you want something more uplifting after my traditional Christmas whinge? Try Mt Barker Christmas Pageant or St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf.

Mount Barker Christmas Pageant 2011

3 12 2011

First, some exclusive secret behind-the scenes snaps! I was going to do a sealed section to protect the magic….but I couldn’t work out how.

secret behind the scenes photos of the preparations.....

Behind the scenes - building a giant bird (see later for the "after" shots)

behind the scenes

This was possibly the largest and best Mt Barker Pageant I have seen (and I have been attended for a few years now). However, the Pageant is under threat – the Council storage sheds it uses have been deemed unsafe and they need a place to store the floats. If you are able to help, the contact links are at the bottom of the posting.

The Outback Dunny - a familiar Australian Christmas theme

One Man Band and a somewhat familiar looking clown.....

a giant flapping bird (this is what they were building in one of the "behind the scenes" photographs)

one of many CFS trucks in the parade, all staffed by volunteers. Thanks for keeping us safe over summer!

a pig, a chicken and something brown - perhaps a cow? (This should be subtitled "Christmas Lunch")

Christmas pirates

This woman walked the entire pageant in 6 inch heels - hats off to her! (and an iced foot bath)

Christmas witches? A bit of a mixed concept there...

Batmobile - THWACK!

Gingerbread House

the boy in orange is a lobster... King Neptune, Under the Sea

Little Christmas trees....Nairne Primary School

Hahndorf Town Band

The Flintstones....

that outfit must be really hot in the cadets

It wouldn't be a pageant with out a pipe band.

Father Christmas!

Excerpt from Mt Barker and Districts Residents’ Association website :
“At several recent Council meetings it has become clear that the Mt Barker Christmas Pageant committee are being pressured to find an alternative location for their floats as the current sheds have been deemed unsafe by a Council consultant. The land upon which the sheds are situated is Crown Land and the Council wishes to include this land in future development projects (subject to Government consent).

After a formal deputation to Council, the Pageant committee has been trying to source an alternative solution as they only have permission to remain at the current site until the end of 2011 (or specifically they can return the floats to the sheds after this year’s pageant with no guarantees that they will have access again after this date)!

If anyone has any ideas on how to assist the Pageant committee please contact either Councillor Carol Bailey or anyone on the Association Executive. We need to ensure this Christmas Pageant remains in Mt Barker, but the Committee will require community support for this to occur.”

Alternately, contact via Mt Barker Christmas Pageant website.

St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf

3 12 2011

In the lead-up to Christmas, Hahndorf, a small town in the Adelaide Hills, held its St Nicholas Parade.

The Parade approaches

Hahndorf Town Band

St Nicholas

St Nicholas

Assorted shepherds and angels

The Parade passes

If you liked this post, you might also like Hahndorf Lantern Festival.

Stirling Christmas Pageant 2011

20 11 2011

Is it really nearly Christmas?

5 11 2011

photo credit Rkramer62

The signs are there.

The supermarkets are full of mince pies, turkey rolls, Christmas puddings and a variety of cheap and gaudy decorations.

The advertisements are on television, suggesting what that special someone in your life, mum, dad and the kids, would all like to receive for Christmas.

The Adelaide Christmas Pageant is next Saturday….and a variety of smaller pageants are scheduled for towns and suburbs. Once Father Christmas “arrives” in town, there will be no going back. The Magic Cave will be open and queues of over-excited, over-sugared children will wait for their moment to sit on Father Christmas’s knee and demand a list of goodies be delivered, whilst swearing that they have been good this year, really, really good. While you might think that the “white lie” of Father Christmas is OK, is this not also an early lesson in conning for the children, as we require that they tell the man in red that they have been good in exchange for the promise of goodies to come?

Father Christmas arrives in Adelaide 2009 - this might have been the year he fainted from the heat, distressing small children in the crowd! photo credit: Stephen Barnett

The tradition in our family is that the Christmas tree goes up after the Adelaide Pageant. That is the official start of the Christmas season for us, although several boxes of mince pies have already been bought and consumed, and I do already have a couple of presents hidden away. Soon the house will be full of little bits of glitter that have fallen off the decorations. We avoid the real tree, so no pine needles, but that fake slow is a killer to remove from windows after it has been baked in the harsh Australian sun for a month of two. Not to mention trodden into the carpets. Quite why an Australian Christmas would require fake snow is a question that has never been adequately answered. Surely we don’t still suffer from cultural cringe?

photo credit Shazzmack

The children have started their Christmas lists, They started them shortly after last Christmas, I think. Each year seems to increaingly focus on electronic goods – and hence gets more and more expensive. We stress that the Christmas list is a “wish list” not a shopping list. Hence son number three has started adding things to my shopping list instead. As if I might accidentally buy him an iphone or an ipad, just because it is on my list! Full marks for trying.

Other Christmas traditions are less embedded. Cards have been replaced by Christmas emails (or e-cards) and phone calls. For several years I bought cards and then didn’t quite get around to sending them. Eventually I just realised that I wasn’t going to, and hence sent the emails instead. At least they arrive. And on time. Sorry, Australia Post.

photo credit: Serendigity

With family scattered in different cities and states around the country we no longer have a tradition of the family Christmas lunch. We usually have a Christmas lunch with whoever is around, and then have a very informal dinner which involves grazing on left-overs. Often this involves drinks with the neighbours and a post-mortem on Christmas – what horrendous presents the children have been given (noisy, inappropriate, irritating, battery-requiring etc – my mother takes the cake for giving my 7 year-old children mobile phones), what terrible thing some relative said over lunch or on the annual Christmas phone call, who got drunk, etc.

A friend told me that after a couple of years of failed family Christmas lunches, she and her family decided to make their own tradition. They go camping every Christmas. No arguments about whose turn it is to host the lunch, which side of the family gets lunch or dinner. A limited opportunity to completely over-cater. Their children are now adults but the tradition continues.

So this year we decided to cut out the middle man and have lunch with the neighbours. And better still, we decided to find a hotel or restaurant open on Christmas day. And do you think we can find anywhere?

Surely we can’t be the only families in town wanting to have a no-fuss Christmas lunch, with no cooking, no cleaning up afterwards. You might not think it is the spirit of the season, but for two working mums, the idea of not doing housework on Christmas Day sounds heavenly.

Almost like Christmas, really.

What Christmas traditions do you celebrate in your family?