Christmas In AUSTRALIA

For the majority of Australians, Christmas Downunder has all the glitter, tinsel and razzmatazz of a Christmas in New York, London Paris or Vancouver. The major difference is one of WEATHER....Christmas Down Under is never White. Snow has rarely fallen if ever on this date, Down Under. We have during past Christmases experienced all the seasonal variations of a Summer Down Under.....electrical storms, floods, hailstorms, cyclones and bushfires. But 80% of the time we are blessed with blue skies and depending on our Australian location, temperatures ranging from 25-38 degrees centigrade. Currently it is Summer Down Under and daily temperatures range from 30-40 degrees centigrade on the mainland. Tamania is always slightly cooler.

Christmas is special to the majority of Australians for it is our Summer Holiday season and students especially are "wrapping" up their school year. That means sitting for end of Semester tests or exams and waiting for their results, as well as getting ready for the Summer Holidays. For the majority of Australian students this means ...SUN....SURF....SHOPPING. For students it means an end to homework and school studies and the beginning of lots of time for family, relatives and "mates". Our neighbours, the "Kiwis" or New Zealanders are actually the first ones to really celebrate the joyous day of Christmas. New Zealand is the first country immediately west of the international date line. So we're sorry most of American friends have to wait an extra day for Christmas.

So how do we REALLY celebrate Christmas? You must remember that Australia, though huge in size, has a population of just over 18 million people. Our country is a harmonious mix of many ethnic groups. Our backgrounds are very varied....our people have connections with England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Middle East, Vietnam, China, Japan, Thailand as well as North and South America. So you can imagine that each of these national groups brings the colour ,customs and festive rituals of the Christmas celebrated in their respective homelands. Most celebrations include things like candles, trees and gift giving, but there are other customs that are different. As Australians we are able to appreciate culturally diverse Christmas celebrations.

However, up until 30 years ago, our Christmas celebrations were heavily influenced by our original Anglo-Celtic influences. The English style of Christmas served as our model for celebrating Christmas.......right down to the traditional roast turkey and steamed pudding in over 35 degree heat. Today with the huge influx of overseas migrants our Christmas celebrations are heavily influenced by the ethnicity of families involved. Common sense is prevailing today in terms of weather. Traditional dinners have been replaced with family gatherings in back yards, picnics in parks, gardens and on the beach. For many, it is the occasion to be with friends and relatives, to share love and friendship and not to forget, the exchange of gifts in the traditional manner. For many, it is of course a time to enjoy and consume massive quantities of food. A typical Christmas menu could include seafood, glazed ham, cold chicken, duck or turkey, cold deli meats, pasta, salads galore, desserts of all types, fruit salad, pavlovas, ice-cream plus Christmas edibles of all varieties such as mince pies,fruit cake, shortbread, chocolates etc.

There has been a suggestion that "Swag Man" take over Santa's franchise Down Under!!! There is a lot of concern about Santa Claus perhaps suffering heat stroke whilst Down Under. "Swag Man" wears a brown Akubra, a blue singlet and long baggy shorts. He spends all winter under Uluru with his merry dingoes and then at Christmas time, he gets in his huge four-wheel drive and sets off through the red dust to deliver his presents.

For those interested, the first official Christmas Down Under was celebrated on the 25th December,1788 at Sydney Cove by Reverend Johnson. After the service, Governor Arthur Phillips and his officers dined heartily, toasting the King of England and his family. But for the majority of the first white inhabitants...the convicts....there was no change to their regular menu... bread rations only. The only goodwill which seemed to have been displayed was to Michael Dennison. He was a convict who stole a pound of flour from Martha Pugh. He was sentenced to 200 lashes by the whip. But since it was Christmas, only 150 were delivered.

Currently everyone is beginning to get ready for the "silly season". Everyone is busily planning Christmas break-up parties. Children are writing letters to Santa Claus. Decorations are being bought and set up. Shopping centres and malls are experiencing record breaking crowds. In homes, many of the traditional Christmas rituals are being followed. Many children are helping to decorate the family Christmas tree. We have yet to follow the American ritual of getting "real" Christmas trees......though some do use gum tree branches. Children are learning Christmas Carols so that they may be sung at festive occasions such as public "Carols by Candlelight" and school concerts. Christmas stockings are being hung in homes....though fireplaces are in short supply. Cards galore are being written and posted. Everyone awaits.......the anticipation is high!

It must also be mentioned that with all the glitter, tinsel and razzmatazz.......Australians consider Christmas a time for remembering the true meaning of Christmas.........a time for remembering the birth of Jesus and the spiritual meaning of Christmas . For many, Christmas will begin with families attending a mid-night mass. 70% of Australians are either Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran. After the mid-night Mass, a little sleep is attempted. For many, the children in various households, wake up the family at dawn. Gifts are unwrapped and the joy of Christmas begins. For many with relatives and friends overseas, it is a mad scramble to get an early phone call to relatives worldwide.

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