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.
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.
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.