Christmas Down Under


“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” What should Christmas look like? Piles of snow? Frost sparkling in the trees? Cold pinching cheeks red? Maybe not.

When that Christmas song plays on the radio in Australia and New Zealand, teens there don’t imagine snow or cold. They think of summer—hot weather, swimming, being out of school, going on family holidays, camping, spending time at the beach, having barbecues—all their favorite things to do at Christmastime.

Yes, they know that the other English-speaking areas of the world up north like Great Britain, the United States, and Canada are snuggling in front of fires and maybe building a snowman or two. But Christmas in the southern hemisphere means summertime.

Heavily influenced by settlers from Great Britain, both Australia and New Zealand have many of the same traditions as their northern cousins. The Cleveland Ward seminary in the Brisbane Australia Stake recited a list of their Christmas traditions that are the same as northern countries—decorating a Christmas tree, stringing lots of lights, wrapping presents, and visiting Santa.

Does Santa look the same? Yes, they report, Santa Claus shows up in the stores dressed in his traditional red suit, but he always looks uncomfortably hot. And he is usually wearing sunglasses.

Caroling

There’s no bundling up in heavy coats and boots when the youth of the Auckland New Zealand Harbour Stake go caroling in December. They report that they sing all the same old Christmas carols. Yes, they sing the line, “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh,” even though snow is the most unlikely weather possible at that time of the year. Of course, after a warm evening of caroling, they prefer to go out for ice cream rather than hot chocolate.

Stocking Stuffing

Hanging Christmas stockings is another tradition that children down under share with other countries. But the Munro family in Auckland, New Zealand, have made a nice twist to personalize the family tradition. “We fill our parents’ stockings,” said Rachel Munro. “They hang their stockings along with ours,” added her brother, John, “and the children are in charge of filling them.”

Christmas Dinner

Teens in both New Zealand and Australia know that it probably makes more sense to have a dinner of salads and cool drinks on what is usually a hot Christmas Day, but they roll their eyes and pat their stomachs when describing their traditional Christmas roast dinner. The menu often includes roast beef or lamb or pork or turkey, new potatoes and peas, lots of vegetables, and desserts like trifle or steamed pudding and pavlova, a meringue served with fruit and cream that is a special dessert in both New Zealand and Australia.

“We know it’s crazy to heat the house up preparing a traditional Christmas dinner. But it’s a family tradition. We eat it with the fans blowing on us,” said Leanne Dunlop of Brisbane, Australia. “After dinner we go swimming with the whole family.”

As groups in both countries continued describing their favorite things to do at Christmas, the list became noticeably different from that of teens in northern climes. They mention playing beach volleyball with their families, swimming and surfing, eating fresh strawberries, having barbecues with all the cousins, and ward get-togethers at the park for games.

But one word is repeated over and over—family, family, family. Christmas is a family celebration. Many young people said that it is tradition in their families to gather together either on Christmas Eve or on Christmas morning to read about the birth of Christ from the scriptures. Christmas Day is a time to gather with extended families to celebrate an event that has nothing to do with snow or cold—the birth of the Savior of the world. The LDS teens in Australia and New Zealand know, just as LDS young people the world over know, that Christmas is a time to think of Christ and the significance of his birth. And they know it with great joy.

Pavlova

3 egg whites

3 Tbsp. cold water

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. vinegar

Beat egg whites until very stiff. Add water and beat again. Mix cornstarch and salt thoroughly with sugar, and add gradually, beating well. Fold in vinegar and vanilla. Pile onto greased baking paper on a cooking sheet or in a well-greased deep round cake pan. Bake at 325° F. for 15 minutes. Then turn off heat and leave in closed oven for one hour. Recipe can be doubled or tripled. Serve with whipped cream and strawberries or kiwi fruit.

The Three Drovers An Australian Christmas Carol

Across the plains one Christmas night,
Three drovers riding blythe and gay,
Looked up and saw a starry light,
More radiant than the Milky Way;
And on their hearts such wonder fell,
They sang with joy “Noel! Noel!”
The air was dry with summer heat,
and smoke was on the yellow moon;
But from the heavens, faint and sweet,
came floating down a wond’rous tune;
And as they heard, they sang full well,
those drovers three—“Noel! Noel!”
The black swans flew across the sky,
the wild dog called across the plain,
The starry lustre blazed on high,
still echoed on the heavenly strain;
And still they sang “Noel! Noel!”
those drovers three, “Noel! Noel!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jerry Harston