You know the run up to Christmas has officially started when the eagerly anticipated Coca Cola and John Lewis TV adverts are released. Wintery images fill the screen: falling snow, families sledging, everyone all bundled up in their hats, scarves and gloves. This is Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere.
But not everyone associates Christmas with low temperatures, mulled wine, and a turkey dinner. The few winter holidays I have spent with my family in Perth, Western Australia, have revealed an entirely different Christmas experience, far from the traditional don-your-cosiest-Christmas-jumper practice.
First of all, it is boiling. Ozzie summers can reach temperatures of way past 40?C (100?F), resulting in a much-needed Christmas outfit adjustment. Jumpers and woolly socks are the last thing you want to wear, with shorts and T-shirts, light dresses and flip-flops being more appropriate.
Secondly, forget the roast turkey. In standard Australian style, it’s all about the barbecue. Cooking the turkey outside, “on the barbie” is an integral part of the day – a few cold beers whilst the family gathers around the BBQ is the Ozzie equivalent of a glass of mulled wine next to the fire.
Once we have devoured the lunch, it is time for the family games. Not charades-no, but games in the swimming pool. Outside is generally where the rest of Christmas takes place, by the pool, under the sun, in bikinis. It really is quite a bizarre concept for ‘Christmas in the sun’ first-timers. And this bizarreness continues into Boxing Day. It is possibly the busiest day of the year for Australian beaches, as traditionally everyone flocks down for a picnic, barbecue, swim and general chill-out. Quite different from the chaos that ensues over here on the first day of the sales!
The strangest part for me, however, is the Christmas paraphernalia. Oddly, the cards feature snowmen, reindeers pulling sleighs and Father Christmas in his traditional winter dress. Clearly, a picture of Santa in his swim shorts isn’t as appealing.
Additionally, it is common for Australian cities to once again decorate their homes and businesses in tinsel to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’. Perhaps they want to experience a cold winters’ Christmas, but let’s be honest, a minimum of 10?C (50?F) isn’t exactly chilly!
Personally, I’m a lover of winter sun. Of course, there is something comforting about celebrating the festivities inside your cosy home, but I think if I had to pick where I’d rather put my Christmas tree, I’d opt for Down Under.
Image credit: Diego Trazzi