Christmas in the southern hemisphere is almost incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. For those who live on the far side of the planet, where Christmas is associated with cold weather, hot meals (and hot toddies), snowmen and sleigh bells, the idea of a tropical Christmas is just plain foreign.
As December dawns, bringing the first days of the southern hemisphere summer, in air-conditioned shopping centres muzak spills out carols and Christmas anthems (White Christmas, Winter Wonderland…you get the idea) and Santa images are everywhere. But outside, the temperatures in Australia – where I live anyway – are just as likely to be hitting the 30s. They are right now!
Canadian-based blogger Mama Cormier shared her idea of what best symbolises this time of year for her – and I laughed because my list would be so different! So here is my idea of what evokes summer – and a summery Christmas – for me. My home is in sub-tropical Queensland, and I often spend Christmas with my extended family in New Zealand, so I’ve included some things from both countries.
When it comes to sending Christmas cards, I always look for a suitably Australian version – no snowflakes or reindeer for me. Santas in boardshorts or other Australiana themes are definitely the go for spreading cheer from “down under”.
Thankfully, we are slowly moving towards an antipodean style of Christmas. Tradition is all very well, but honestly, it’s just too hot to eat a big Christmas roast and pudding as our forebears did in the northern hemisphere…so mostly it’s prawns, oysters and other seafood, lots of salads, and cool drinks!
And its fruit season so there are plenty of juicy mangoes around now. Nothing beats that sticky juice dripping down your arm. Strawberries are typical Christmas fare – maybe topping the pavlova – and it’s just not Christmas without a big bowl of cherries. Can anything beat fresh tropical fruit for breakfast, or a platter just to pick from at any time of day?
For dessert, some people still love a boiled Christmas pudding with hot custard, but the other option when the temperatures are in the 30s is something cold and ice-cream based. And of course, the classic Australasian dish, the pavlova – just don’t ask an Australian or a New Zealander which country it originated in! I don’t really care, this meringue-based dish melts in your mouth.
Summer means the great outdoors…and nature is at its best, with even our “Christmas” trees – in Australian the poinciana and in New Zealand the pohutukawa – blaze with festive red blossoms. Of course, these aren’t the trees we put in the corner and decorate with tinsel; for that there’s still the trusty pine tree, the smell of which will always evoke Christmas.
Summer also means the beach. And yes, it’s true that some people in Australia spend Christmas Day on the beach. Even if they don’t eat there, if you’re on holiday an afternoon game of beach cricket – or a long, languid walk – is just the thing to work off Christmas lunch.Of course, there’s also the matter of summer footwear. Summer means thongs (in Australia) or jandals (in New Zealand). Easy to slip on and off and perfect for the beach or around home.
But there’s one more thing that says “summer” in Queensland – and other northern parts of Australia. That’s most definitely a cracking thunderstorm, which usually forms in the late afternoon and brings bucketing rain, sometimes hail, and sheet or fork lightning. And they’ve started already, with some beauties over the past week or so. It’s just the thing to cool the world down after a steamy day.
What says “Christmas” to you? Wherever you live, I’d love to know!