To us in Canada, the typical Christmas is a scene of white snow, freshly blanketing the city, peppermint hot chocolate and a turkey roasting in the oven, the warmth and aroma spreading through the whole house. We think of our Christmas morning attire as big sweaters and slippers or fuzzy sleep pants and house coats. It’s easy to forget with Christmas songs like “Frosty the Snowman,” or “Let it Snow,” that there is a Christmas of palm trees and sandy beaches somewhere in the world. Well, this I used to think Christmas needed snow and catchy jingles, but after being stranded in the Chicago airport on my own last year because of snow, and after working retail in December with “Santa Baby” on loop, I realized there were better parts to the holiday. Besides, wearing shorts and a tank top on December 25th sure does beat a snow suit!
So, what does a summer Christmas look like? Besides the bathing suits and Christmas hats and other funny outfits you’ll find on the beaches on Christmas, I think the most bizarre, but understandable part of the Australian Christmas I experienced, was the cool-weather food. I mean, no turkey?! But it’s Christmas! However, the thought of roasting a turkey in the oven for hours, letting the heat from the oven spread through your house – yeah, that’s insane. It’s already 40C, there is no way it is worth heating the house up even hotter just to cook a bird. I’ll admit that after 4 years, my memories of an Aussie Christmas dinner are actually of only two things; one of those being prawns and the other being Pavlova!
Pavlova; a beautiful national argument between Australia and New Zealand that has continued throughout the ages. The meringue and whipped dessert, garnished with kiwis and strawberries and other delicious fruit, was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the early 20th century. The problem there is that both countries enjoy arguing over who actually invented the dish – who actually honoured the graceful dancer. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter to me. Just knowing it will be part of a Christmas spread is enough to make me happy.
Sandmen instead of snowmen. Seafood instead of turkey. Pavlova instead of pie or a god-awful fruit cake (which, by the way, don’t taste half bad in Aussie land!) But, what else makes Christmas – Christmas? I can tell you that Australians don’t need snow to get into the festive spirit. Walking and driving around at Christmastime in the suburbs made it clear that Australians are the real threat to over-shining the Griswold’s at Christmas. There were entire streets that got together to dress up their homes in beautiful lights at Christmas. Reindeers covering the lawn. Lights synced to music. Archways made of twinkling bulbs. Okay – in all honesty, I know that Canadians can be known to put in some effort too. The problem, however, is the frigid temps that keep us all in doors during the season, instead of outside, witnessing and participating in the festivities.
There is something pretty great about enjoying Christmas while while you sit back amongst the palm trees. Maybe you have an iced drink in your hand. Maybe you are humming along to an ironic Christmas song since pretty much every one of them is about how cold and snowy it is. But you are with people you love and you’re relaxing. The sun calms your stresses and the long summer day gives you plenty of time to be thankful; thankful for the opportunity to experience a different Christmas – a summer Christmas.
Traveller’s Tales will be back in February with tales of an adventure through Australia and New Zealand. Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and Merry Christmas!
Emily Meyer is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 33 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.