Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Traditions: Christmas in Australia

By Sylvia (a member of Productive Parenting)

I arrived in Australia when I was 5 years old, after defecting from Poland. We brought our traditions with us and not much else. We did many things differently from the Aussies, especially our food and our customs....30 years later I married an Australian man from the country, and now I really appreciate the cultural differences.

We finally arrive at our Christmas holiday destination, a campsite which is midway between Sydney and Brisbane on the coast after a six hour drive from Sydney with a 2.5 year old in the back seat.

My husband's mother's side of the family have been gathering at this exact spot for 70 plus years to celebrate Christmas together. I think my 75 year old mother-in-law missed only one such Christmas as she gave birth to her eldest on Christmas Day.

We spend all day at the caravan park unpacking and checking which other relatives or “regulars” have arrived. Helena is beside herself with excitement squealing with delight as she notices the water's edge is 100 metres from our campsite. When her grandparents arrive with the caravan in tow, she is overwhelmed as she hasn’t seen them for 11 months.

Christmas on the coast in December is hot, humid and sunburnt so we spend our days on the beach chasing kids with sunscreen in hand, teaching them about surfing, fishing, worms, pipis, sand castles, native birds, swimming between the flags and why it’s not great to throw sand.

In the evenings, we might get to have "tea" on the headland. Translated, this means a dinner of cold takeaway fish and chips with extended family on top of a cliff with the seagulls (nowadays we make our own version, but I can save that for another time).

When Christmas Day arrives - all the children wake extra early to wake you and then rip open their presents. We have a small breakfast then head to the beach to discuss the contents of the presents. We all pile into someone's house or campsite for Christmas lunch where everyone brings "a plate" to share, including; prawns, vegetable and fruit salads (sadly, this once included a celery, mayonnaise and walnut salad), cold roast chicken, hams and beer in stubbie holders. We end up eating too much Christmas pudding and we return to our campsites and caravans to sleep it off (except for the kids who are still running around on sugar highs with their new toys).

On Boxing Day morning the caravan park fills to overflowing with people from all over the State. For most of them, this is their big holiday for the year so they arrive with boats and esky’s full of beer and sausages. Happy hour starts unreasonable early and goes until there is no one left to tell tall stories to. Music blares all day and night and queues form each morning and night at the amenities block.

This is our cue to leave, so we tear our daughter away from her new friends, kiss the relatives goodbye and hop in the car to enjoy the six hour journey home.

What are YOUR holiday traditions?

Sylvia is a member of Productive Parenting and lives in Australia with her husband, and her 2 1/2  year-old daughter, Helena.

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