Christmas Down Under

Celebrating Nativity in Australia. What with shiny lights and delicious food to be enjoyed in the heat

Christmas in Australia is a bit like Italian Ferra

Christmas in Australia is a bit like Italian Ferragosto, says Michela Cimnaghi, who lives in Perth. A visit to the beach (or a dive into the pool) is a must

Forget about snow, cold weather and warm sweaters Australian Christmas is all about summer. It’s like having the Italian Ferragosto and Christmas in the same day.

The festive season starts in November, just with the beginning of summer and it’s all about lights’ decorations. Australians can become crazy when it comes to decorate their houses for Christmas and just to have an idea there are special maps, published by newspapers, to help people do the best Christmas lights tour. Each suburb will also have its own street party to switch the lights on. Business Christmas parties are the other important activity in December to celebrate also the long holidays. Schools will finish before Christmas time so it’s not just a holiday as in Italy.

Lights are the main protagonist: every newspapers publishes its Christmas light tour

Lights are the main protagonist: every newspapers publishes its Christmas light tour

Finally Christmas day which is a family day, as in any other country in the world, but with a twist: a visit to the beach is a must do. Being Australia a country strongly related to Great Britain the tradition for the day is in such a day similar to the British one except for the too wintery food. The table is set up with crackers for each guest and they will be pulled just before starting lunch. Crackers are cardboard tubes shaped as bon-bons; they have to be pulled by two people and the person with the larger portion of cracker empties the contents from the tube and keeps them. Commonly they contain a paper hat, plastic toys and a small piece of paper with a joke written on it. It is mandatory to wear your paper hat and read out your joke!

It is also a feast of food with seafood platter, glazed ham and Christmas pudding. The seafood platter has to be huge and laden with chunks of lettuce, lemon wedges, prawns and oysters. A mayo based dipping sauce will accompany it and reminds me of the prawns’ cocktail so famous in the ’80s. The host will present it to the guests as “the hero of the day”. Glazed ham will be eaten cold and it will probably last also for Boxing Day (26th of December). The skin of the fully cooked smoked ham is trimmed off and then using a sharp paring knife a diagonal crosshatch pattern will be scored through the fat. The glaze is the kind of family recipe that everyone has and it can be with apples, pineapple, oranges or quince jelly, which is the one that I consider my family recipe now. The glaze is poured and brushed over the ham while it roasts inside the oven. Salads and roasted veggies will also be on the table.

The dessert zone is the 100% British zone with Christmas pudding. It’s composed of dried fruits held together by eggs, moistened by molasses and flavoured with spices. The moist comes also from sherry, which will also prevent it from spoiling. An Australian addition is to serve also a classical Pavlova. We honestly keep the Italian tradition for dessert and buy Panettone and Pandoro. It’s our way to keep Italy in mind. For our first Aussie Christmas we tried with a traditional Italian menu but the 42 degrees outside quickly convinced us to switch to local traditions.


Dal Mondo

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