G'day Bruce / Shiela!
We're fighting the jet lag and bringing you this post from the land down under! Whilst Australia is historically known for being an 18th-century penal colony as claimed by Great Britain, it is now a highly developed country with the 14th largest economy in the world, and the worlds 8th largest immigrant population, something which has influenced its traditions and culture for generations.
Australia can be found in Oceania between the Indian and South Pacific oceans and receives more than 300,000 visitors from the UK each year.
If you've read our New Zealand post, there are no prizes for guessing what's coming...
Leave your scarves and woolly hats at home, and pack sunglasses, swimsuits and flip-flops. December is the start of summer down under, and you can expect temperates to range withing the 20's throughout the cities and coastal areas, and 30's in the outback areas (that's celsius, not Fahrenheit!)
If you are travelling to the outback areas then be prepared for some downpours as well as some scorching heat - these areas of the country experience a tropical climate in the summer months, so it wouldn't be too out of the ordinary to experience a shower or two.
Similar to New Zealand, the hot weather in Australia means a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings might not be at the top of everyone's priority list come the 25th of December. It should be noted, however, that the Australian Chrismas dinner still carries many British and American influences.
You might think that throwing a shrimp on the barbie is the main event at any Aussie Christmas dinner, and you wouldn't be too far wrong, however, the showstopper at any Australian Christmas banquet is a maple, apricot or honey-glazed slow-cooked ham. Each Australia has their own take on this Christmas staple, however, it is normally accompanied by cranberry sauce, apple sauce, baked apples and, of course, crackling. Some Australians might even opt to glaze their ham with pineapple juice for a truly unique flavour, but what's certain is that no Christmas table will be complete without this sticky, smokey meeting taking pride of place in the centre of the dining table.
Let's get back to that shrimp! And, no, we're not talking prawn cocktail. We think it would be fair today that whenever attempting an Aussie accent, people will generally say 'G'Day' or 'let's throw another shrimp on the barbie'. The idea of throwing another shrimp on the barbie was popularised by Aussie comedian Paul Hogan, or Crocodile Dundee as most of us know him. It was part of an Australian tourism campaign which took the world by storm and Australians have been throwing shrimps on the barbie ever since, serving them as a starter, main, or even just a snack when cracking open a stubbie (beer).
British influences are more felt during dessert, with Christmas pudding, mince pies and gingerbread often on offer. Of course, these desserts all have an Australian twist to go with the glorious sunshine. Australian Christmas puddings often have a pronounced orange flavour which is must more floral and summery than the traditional ginger and cinnamon. Also, if enjoying a Christmas pudding down under, you can expect it to be served with custard rather than the British favourite, Brandy Sauce. Similarly, mince pies are also a little different from those at home. Whilst traditionally filled with mincemeat, you can expect to find apples, marmalade, oranges and lemons in the Australian counterpart.
Of course, many Australians wouldn't forgive us if we didn't mention a pavlova. Now, eagle-eyed readers may remember that last week, we told you a pavlova is of Kiwi origin and this is true, depending on who you ask. The origin of the pavlova is a commonly disputed topic between Aussies and Kiwis, however, Aussie's cant actually pinpoint exactly when it was invented or where. As New Zealanders can, we have decided to give this one to the Kiwis, however, it is still a dessert enjoyed by many Australian families during the festive period.
The Christmas Tree
Australians are huge on Christmas from the food, lights, markets and even the tree. Each year, Australians will bunch up branches of 'Christmas Bush' and decorate their home. Christmas Bush is a small tree or shrub which is native to Australia and grows white flowers which turn to a deep red during the summer, just in time for Christmas.
In terms of the Christmas tree itself, there are some native Aussie trees which many claim are better than the traditional pine due to the warm climate over the Christmas period. These include the Norfolk Island Pine, the Geebung and the Woolly Bush amongst others, however, they are decorated in very much the same way as in Europe, with lights, baubles and presents underneath. Of course, they won't have candy canes or chocolate hangings due to the very extreme heat, however, Aussies make up for this in other ways such as decorating their homes with ferns, palm leaves and the Christmas Bush.
No matter where you go or what you do in Australia, we promise Christmas will certainly be magical, fun and very, very hot! You might even find Santa sporting some Aviator sunglasses and flip-flops!
And, on that note, Dasher and Prancer are ushering us away onto our next stop... Russia! Word of warning, dear readers... you might want to pack your woollies for this one!
Catch you later, Cobber!
The Crackers Team