For me, the festive period is associated with cosy nights in, dreaming of snow on Christmas Day, and hardly having my hand out of a tin of Quality Street chocolates. However, spending this December and celebrating Christmas in Perth, Western Australia, has turned everything I know about Christmas on its head. It’s all about cold beers in ‘stubbies,’ days at the beach, and not being able to eat so many mince pies, as I can no longer hide behind the winter layers. Despite this, I’m quite excited to dip in the pool on Christmas day to cool off, rather than putting on gloves to warm up when stepping outside.
Switching from six degrees in England to 37 degrees in Perth, within twenty-one hours of travel, was overwhelming at first. Not to mention, there were four straight days of forty-degree heat nearing the end of my first week, which has not happened since 1972. So, I had to ease myself into the roaring heat little by little, only spending half an hour at a time in the sun before retreating into the comforting arms of an air-conditioned bungalow.
What makes the transition to a brief stint of summer a whole lot easier is that Australia celebrates Christmas similar to back at home, but with an Australian twist
At home, I prefer to do this anyway, mainly because my pale-self burns so quickly and I have to be busy doing something to justify being in the sun, not sunbathing. Yet, when you’ve got the opportunity to see the Australian bush, beautiful coastlines, and spend all day listening to the waves crash against the shore, you really cannot moan. Despite the hot temperatures and the roaring bushfires only 80 kilometres up the road, I’d much rather be resting in the shade then warming up indoors. After all, this is a once in a lifetime trip, so wasting time wishing I was back home isn’t an option.
What makes the transition to a brief stint of summer a whole lot easier is that Australia celebrates Christmas similar to back at home. In the city, Christmas lights of giant golden kangaroos, and St George’s Cathedral projecting images of Father Christmas playing on the beach and snorkelling in coral reefs kept me in Christmas spirit, but with an Australian twist. Even the Christmas decorations in smaller towns had me feeling festive. A favourite of mine was the main street of Cowaramup, a town specialising in dairy products, having statues of cows and calves wearing Rudolf antlers, father Christmas hats, and tinsel around their necks. So, although celebrating Christmas on the other side of the world is a significant change, I know I’m not missing out on the lead up to Christmas.
One thing I think the UK should take note of, however, is how the Australians are a little bit more relaxed when it comes to Christmas shopping. You can walk down a Highstreet or in a shopping centre without every shop window beckoning you in, claiming to sell ‘perfect gift for Christmas.’ I believe this makes the holidays a lot more about what matters most, which is spending time with family and friends. From my observations, there is no panic to make sure everyone we know is gifted with at least a Lynx deodorant set or a box of Maltesers. Buying less is also great for the environment, with the UK dealing with millions of tonnes of Christmas waste each year.
Having barbeques most nights and the ice-cold drinks at the beach make for a relaxing break from a busy first term, however, part of me is wondering if Christmas dinner is going to be as good and as enjoyable to eat here in Australia
In terms of Christmas food, Australia will never compare to the UK. Don’t get me wrong, having barbeques most nights and the ice-cold drinks at the beach make for a relaxing break from a busy first term, however, part of me is wondering if Christmas dinner is going to be as good and as enjoyable to eat here in Australia. For many Australians, seafood plays a larger part than in the UK, with many eating fresh prawns, crabs, and crayfish before dinner, with fruits like cherries also coming into season. In the afternoon, Christmas dinner features cold meats and vegetables like pumpkin and green beans. Plus, pavlova is becoming more common for dessert, which is a lot cooler than the alternative of hot Christmas pudding and custard.
So, although similarities to the UK are definitely there, the warm weather isn’t conducive to having most things piping hot as we have it in Britain. In this sense, the dinner may not be as rewarding to eat than the dinner I’m used to back home, but the seafood, cherries, and salad at lunch will make up for it, I’m sure.
Overall, I am enjoying how upside-down Christmas is Downunder. Celebrating in the sun makes for a great change to my usual celebrations. Still, it will never compare to back home, especially since I’m celebrating away from my mum and baby brother. So, although I absolutely recommend mixing Christmas up one year and travelling abroad, I wouldn’t make it a habit. It sounds strange, but the UK has it more or less spot on when It comes to Christmas. Even though the grizzly cold weather and tedious Christmas shopping can be annoying, it’s all worth it on Christmas day. Yet, whatever the weather, I’m still in the festive spirit and I hope you are too. Merry Christmas!