A wizard in a Christmas hat once claimed that he wished it could be Christmas everyday. His bold statement is played pretty consistently at this time of year, every year. And I love it! In fact, growing up, I have to say I agreed with him. I absolutely loved Christmas. Still do! I’d happily have celebrated Christmas all year round.
A boy native to Northern England, my Christmas memories all involve feeling bone-chillingly cold. It’s funny how a month spent so uncomfortably chilly is celebrated so willingly. But it’s the feeling I have always craved at Christmas! As a youngster, the festive season looked and felt a certain way and even now that feeling fills me with excitement.
From early December, the houses in our street were adorned with flashing lights that quietly illuminated the clear winter nights. Perfectly decorated tree’s would spring up in our neighbours’ windows and wreaths adorned front doors. Our weekends were spent skating around festive Christmas markets searching for last minute gifts. Our nostrils would be filled with the mouthwatering scent of roasting chestnuts and sweet mulled wine. From every shop you’d hear the familiar soothing tones of Bing Crosby as he dreamt longingly of a white Christmas.
Christmas day began with church. We’d sing carols, greet old friends and shiver uncontrollably. There aren’t many happier places than a church yard on Christmas morning. At home we’d receive a conveyor belt of friendly visitors all popping by to wish us a Merry Christmas. We’d laugh as they’d run the icy gauntlet from the car to the door, laden with presents and food. In the afternoon we’d sit together as a family around the table. We’d eat a Christmas feast of roast turkey and all things hot, greasy and delicious before retiring to the couch for an evening of games and general laziness. It was a special time to celebrate together and that’s generally the way it went for the first 21 years of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. For me Christmas had always been a time to relive traditions, see old friends, and be in the company of those closest to me.
But for the Christmas of 2011, I became the living contradiction of everything I’ve just said. I found myself in Sydney, a new place, with new people and the weather was amazing! Christmas crept up on me – I didn’t feel the build up I’d always enjoyed so much. There was no Christmas shopping or festive markets. After months of travel it was the first time I’d really missed home. I saw all of my friends and family enjoying fabulous Christmas comforts without me and I was insanely jealous.
But I had to suck it up. I told myself this was part of the adventure and whatever came around I had to make the most of it. I had some amazing new friends around me who were all going through similar homesick feelings associated with the time of year. We banded together and had the most amazing day.
We welcomed in Christmas at a dingy backpacker bar below a hostel in the city. At the stroke of midnight we danced merrily to The Pogues before stumbling to a nearby church to listen to the carols. It was a nice moment to welcome in the special day. But for us, Christmas day actually began at around 3am when three cockney lads ran into our dorm room shouting,
It wasn’t snowing. But they had sprayed the fire extinguisher around the corridor, which I suppose looked like snow.
I spent Christmas day drinking bags of goon in a very merry state on Bondi Beach, wearing a red Santa hat and sun-burnt skin to match. The atmosphere was certainly festive. I was with new friends in a new place, experiencing all the things I’d set out on this adventure to find. But aside from the infinite red hats on the beach that day, there was no real resemblance to Christmas. The sun was so hot, the sky was so blue and the ocean was breathtakingly fresh…
I actually keep having to remind myself why seem to be complaining.
I had everything I’d left home to find right on my doorstep, but such is my love for Christmas, if I could have transported myself home for the day, I most certainly would have.
I now find myself approaching Christmas 2017, which will be my 4th Christmas spent Down Under and I still haven’t quite got my head around it. Although my subsequent Australian Christmas’ have been considerably tamer than the first, they are still pretty far removed from my idea of a traditional Christmas. We’ve spent a Christmas exploring Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and another at home in Mordialloc. Each year has been different, but ‘heaps’ of fun and if I’m honest, I’m slowly coming around to the idea.
The more settled I’ve become in Australia, the more I’ve embraced everything good about an Australian Christmas. I’ve discovered that I can still have my traditions, of a sort, and combine them with everything that makes an Australian Christmas so amazing. We have Pre-Christmas gatherings with our friends; great nights where we come together to celebrate the year. We buy each other silly gifts, play games, and have an amazing dinner cooked by everyone.
Growing up I never thought I’d see the day when my first thought on Christmas morning is ‘where’s the sun-cream?’, but here I am. There’s no huddling around in dressing gowns whilst opening presents. In fact you’ll be lucky if I’m in anything more than my undies. Every year it’s been stiflingly hot. All the more reason to keep the dinner fresh and the beers on ice. In stark contrast to the Christmas afternoons I spent in a food coma on the couch, we’re now on the sand and in the water. We throw the ball, play cricket, and swim. We make the most of the outdoors and the treats an Australian summer provides. I often feel a bit mean sending pictures home and Skyping from the beach, but you’d never believe this is how I was spending Christmas Day if I didn’t show you.
Down Under the snow ain’t falling. The weather outside is far from frightful and that delightful fire, well that’s a BBQ. It’s Christmas the way it shouldn’t be, but it’s Christmas none the less and I still love it!