Monday, December 2, 2013

How do you celebrate? Blog Challenge


Ms Misantropia has challenged the inhabitants of Blogland to share some of the different ways we celebrate during the festive season. I live in Australia and I would say that Christmas is fairly universally celebrated as a cultural custom by people of many different spiritual traditions here, and also by those with none whatsoever. The Yuletide season also means summertime and hot weather, and although Australia is a multicultural country, our Christmas rituals are British in origin, so many of us still swelter through a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, albeit with air conditioners running on maximum. Ironically, northern hemisphere seasonal motifs, like snowflakes for example, are still a huge part of Christmas imagery here.

Most Aussie homes would have a Christmas tree, and Christmas crackers (or bon bons) have always been part of the festivities. If you're not familiar with them, Christmas crackers are basically tubes of brightly coloured paper with a twist at each end and they usually contain silly things like a paper crown, a cheesy joke and a little toy or trinket. At the dinner table, two people grab an end each,  pulling the cracker until it breaks with a bang (caused by a strip of card that functions in a way similar to a cap gun) and the person with the larger half gets the cracker's contents.

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Christmas also marks the beginning of the school summer vacation here, and it is common practice for children to hand out peppermint candy canes, cards, and other goodies to their friends on the last days of the school year.

The heat means that cold seafood, like prawns, lobster, or smoked salmon, is often served either instead of, or alongside, the customary roast turkeys and hams. Some Aussies barbecue outdoors rather than having a formal indoor meal, or even have picnics at the beach.

We don't do eggnog in Australia. Champagne is the beverage I associate with Christmas. Also, Christmas happens to coincide with the cherry season here, so cherries are absolutely synonymous with Christmas in Australia. I can't even imagine Christmas Day without a bowl of cherries on the table.

Many Australians (like my parents) stick resolutely to traditional British fare for dessert like Christmas cake (fruitcake), plum pudding, and mince pies (none of which I happen to like), but fresh, summery desserts, especially Pavlova, are served at Christmas as well. Pavlova is a dish that originated in Australia and New Zealand, and there is actually enormous rivalry over which country came up with it first. It was named in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Basically, it consists of a meringue base that has a crisp, fine outer shell, and a marshmallowy centre. The base is then topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I usually top a "pav" with strawberries and/or raspberries, and then sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the top.

I hope I've given you a bit of an idea about how my family, and many other Australians, celebrate at this time of year. Thank you for hosting this blog fest, Ms Misantropia! Hop on over to the Ms Misantropia blog to find the links to all the other participants sharing the way they celebrate the festive season.






33 comments:

  1. Oh Emma, what a fabulous post!
    You reminded me of more things from my visit in Australia, like those bon-bons (which they also have for Christmas in Ireland and Britain). But most of all - the Pavlova! I had my first Pavlova for Christmas in Melbourne, and 18 years later it is now my signature dessert! No-one else makes it over here, but everybody loves it :)

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    1. Thank you, Ms Misantropia! :) I love the fact that you've introduced the Pavlova to Sweden! How awesome! :D

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  2. How is it I had no idea you were in Australia? The friend doing the cover reveal on my blog today is in NZ and I have several more writing buddies in Australia. It always amazes me how when I'm complaining about the cold, they're complaining about the heat! I loved all the details about Christmas, the decorations and the food. I've seen Pavlova on MasterChef Australia (love that show!). Thanks so much for sharing with us! :-)

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    1. Ha! I had no idea, that you had no idea, that I was from Australia, Lexa! ;D Yes, we're all topsy-turvy with the seasons Down Under, which makes it weird when our cultural festivals are all really based on northern hemisphere seasons. Easter is autumn for us, Halloween is spring, and instead of a white Christmas, we've got blazing sunshine.

      Wow, it's amazing to think you get to watch MasterChef Australia! I guess the word is spreading about the humble Aussie Pavlova! :D

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  3. In my humble opinion, fruit mince pies are so awful, they make Baby Jesus cry!

    For this Christmas, I'm tempted to have horror things around, because in York, where I live (and in the rest of Oz, I imagine) Christmas decorations and treats started adorning the town and supermarket back when it was Halloween!

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    1. Haha. Yep, I'm right with you on the mince pies, Chris! I'm a great disappointment to my parents. ;)

      Well, I'd advocate having horror things on display all year round, but I know what you mean about the stores. ;D They start bringing out the Christmas paraphernalia earlier every year. I'm totally fed up with Christmas by the time we hit December.

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  4. This was very interesting and eye opening. I learned a lot I did not know, or forget to consider. For me, any Christmas without snow is unusual, here here in the States.
    I had not heard of that dish referred to as a Pavlova but I have eaten something similar.

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    1. Thank you, DogsMom! :) Yes, I imagine an Aussie Christmas would be a huge culture shock to you if you're used to snow. My husband and I experienced a bit of a snowy Christmas once when we were on an extended working holiday in London. I love northern hemisphere Christmases. There was something so special about it getting dark early, the streets being strewn with twinkling lights, and the smell of chestnuts roasting on every street corner. *sigh* :) It's just not the same here, but we do our best to make it special in our own way. Delicious Pavlovas help! ;)

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  5. I love this post, your Christmas sounds pretty much the same as ours here in Wales, apart from the cherries. We do have pavlova here, but it's not really associated with the season. I'm trying to think of something we do here that isn't done in most of Britain, I'll have to rack my brain a little harder and jump in on Ms Misantropia's blog hop.

    Enjoy your week :)

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne! :) Yes, we really do follow the British Christmas traditions here, only we have to cook those turkeys and roast potatoes in ludicrously hot weather. :) It's funny because anyone not eating outdoors, spends the week leading up to Christmas Day, desperately hoping for cool weather.

      By the way, I just read your Christmas post. I'm so glad you joined the hop! :)

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  6. You have my Christmas down. Except we usually have a lunch of turkey (and my vegan alternative) rather than dinner, which kind of means we're eating at the hottest part of the day. Then we play board games!

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    1. Hi Sary Walrus,

      We have Christmas lunch with my family and Christmas dinner with my husband's family. It makes for a very long day and we're usually so stuffed with food at the end of it all, we practically need to be rolled home! Haha. The idea of playing board games after lunch sounds lovely! What a nice little tradition you have. :)

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  7. I can relate to the hot Christmas here in the Southern U.S., hard to get into the spirit of how we identify the season with snow. I did not know most of these traditions like the Bon bons, thanks for sharing Emma. I love hearing about how other cultures celebrate the same holidays or their own unique holidays.

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    1. Thanks, Mark! :) I enjoy hearing about all the unique customs of different cultures too. I learnt such a lot, in my first year of blogging, about all the autumn traditions in the US leading up to Halloween, like corn mazes, hay rides, pumpkin flavours, caramel apples, and of course, haunted attractions. ;) It was fascinating to me. And yes, there's so much snowy Christmas imagery that it's easy to forget that the US southern states experience a quite different climate to the northern states.

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  8. So interesting to read about your Australian christmas! I can understand that it can be a bit weird with snowflakes and heavy food in the heat. In your post I read that the traditions are changing, to the better. Pavlova and cherries sounds so much better :)
    And in the end we don't celebrate the christmas because of Santa and all the snow, we celebrate baby Jesus...well Swedish people are very pagan and still have pagan rituals combined with the christian.

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    1. Thanks, linnea-maria! :) Gradually, Christmas rituals more appropriate to our climate are creeping in, but the British traditions are still deeply entrenched in Australian culture.

      I'm looking forward to reading about the way both you and Ms Misantropia celebrate the festive season in Sweden!

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  9. That was awesome! Thanks, I really enjoyed reading how Christmas is celebrated in Australia.

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    1. Thanks, Julie! I imagine you don't get white Christmases in your neck of the woods etiher. :)

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  10. We do the crackers at the dinner table too, Little Gothic Horrors! I didn't buy them one year because I figured the kids didn't really care, since they were getting older. I don't think I've ever been forgiven, really. :P

    I didn't realize summer vacation for your schools started at Christmas!

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    1. You've just answered a question for me, Insomniac's Attic! I read somewhere that Christmas crackers were a tradition in certain Commonwealth countries, and I was wondering about whether that included Canada. My son has always made out like a bandit with the cracker contents because he is the only grandchild. ;D

      Yes, our school year runs from the end of January to around mid-December.

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  11. Dear Lady Emma .... a bit of a "problem".... we seem to have become the leader of a new "Doomsday Cult" just north of you .... This would be great if we ( Stacey) had any "Ego"...
    Please some "input" on this ... Should there be a Temple built....???

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    1. And the news on the "Ghost" at my home is worse than we thought... the computer guy who examined the image was upset at what-ever he saw ... we are at a bit of a loss on things for now ... At least things are not "boring"...
      Any suggestions ....??

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    2. Oh, I'm going to need the backstory on the Doomsday Cult, Dr. Theda, but I'd definitely ask for a temple! ;)

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  12. Good post! Thanks for sharing & have a happy, sweltering Christmas (as will we here in South Africa).

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    1. Thanks, Esteé! You have a lovely, sweltering Christmas too! ;D

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  13. Thank you for the advice... we commented at the web sites for this area...
    I remember you talking about the Heat Wave you had last Winter(season Here)..
    A great Evening to you as well dear Lady Emma...

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    1. I hope an expert can help you with your unwanted visitor, Dr. Theda!

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  14. I always giggled about the fact that in we, too, tried to show snow in our winter holiday celebrations in the Dominican Republic. We would cover our three with cotton lol. The spirit is what counts, right?

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    1. Haha. Definitely, Magaly! No matter how high the mercury rises, we're still striving for a winter wonderland! ;D

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  15. I love the crackers! I've never heard of that before but it's something I have to try and make. I think my kids would love them, so fun. Also you are not missing anything with eggnog. Some americans will try and tell you it's good, but they are wrong. Trust me, their taste buds have to be broken. The stuff is gross... have I made my point? :) Haha
    All the fresh sea food sounds amazing. I'm actually not one for heat. I love my snow. It makes me so happy. I can't imagine having the holiday with out snow but this year, I am. I'll be travelling south to see family for Christmas. The temp averages will be between 70 and 85. They live on the coast (lot of beach access) and they have lots of yummy seafood as well (probably what I'm most looking forward to). It'll be different but also fun and now I'm going to look up a recipe for Pavlova and see if my grandma and I can whip it up. Sounds amazing :)

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    1. I have to admit, the eggnog doesn't sound too good to me, Jessie, but then again, I come from the land of Vegemite, which I do love, so I probably shouldn't comment on taste abominations. Haha. ;D

      Yes, the seafood is great, but I do adore a wintery Christmas. I loved the atmosphere when my husband and I were in London... short days, twinkling lights strewn across the streets, chestnuts roasting on every street corner... *sigh* It was lovely! :D

      Have a wonderful time with your family down south! ❤

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  16. Oh my goodness, I just looked up Pavlova and they are mouth watering-ly beautiful. I am definitely going to see if my grandma and I can figure them out.

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    1. Yes, Pavlovas are truly yummy, Jessie! :D They're not hard to make. It's just a bit tedious whipping the egg whites and sugar for such a long time, but it's also quite rewarding seeing them turn all thick, glossy and marshmallowy. The trick with Pavs is to leave them in the oven to cool, with the oven door slightly ajar, once they're done cooking. I'm sure you and grandma will do an awesome job! Come back and tell me how it went if you give it a go! :)

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