AE 518: An Aussie Christmas with Kel and Pete
G’day, Kel! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. So, today we’re going to be talking about a bit of Aussie culture. Aussie culture. We’re going to be talking about Christmas! Or Xmas, as we sometimes call it.
Well, I don’t know why I think it’s cross, right? Chris, on a cross, Xmas. it’s called Xmas for people who aren’t really Christian like very very religious they tend to refer to it as Xmas.
Never heard that.
I would usually just call it Christmas, but sometimes I’d write it, when I’m writing quickly I write Xmas, Xmas Xmas Xmas. So, thought we could talk a bit about, I don’t know, what Christmas was like for each of us growing up, obviously with a focus on me and Australia, but also to hear about your experiences with Christmas growing up because, you know, it’s one of those things I grew up doing a certain, you know, having a certain set of customs and rituals that we do each year and I think everyone else does them everywhere else in the world, just the same as I do.
Yeah, I thought the same.
What questions do you have for me the start us off?
I don’t know. Was the same, every year the same for you? Christmas, or it was something you would be looking forward to as a child and be all excited about, or it was like oh… my God, family gatherings…
Think that happened a little later, when I was a little kid I used to love Christmas because you always got presents, right? So, to sort of run you through how it’s, how it usually occurred for me growing up when I was a little kid, my earliest memories of Christmas were…we would have in Australia so, Christmas Eve, the night before Christmas Day, that’s the 24th of December. Then we have Christmas Day, which is the 25th and then we have Boxing Day, which is the 26th and so, Christmas Eve we would usually celebrate with some of my dad’s family, because we’re just the two families, my mom and my dad’s families, would never get together, it would always be you see one then you see the other.
So, on Christmas Eve I would see his family, we would exchange presents, we would usually have a more versatile dinner so, it could be anything, really, with them. Someone would bring you know chips and dips and little things to eat, but it would be at my auntie’s house and she would usually cook something, but it wouldn’t be the same thing every year. So, she just cooked some kind of meal like, you know, maybe a salad, maybe they’d be cold meats, like ham and salami to put in rolls or could be anything.
So, we would do that on Christmas Eve and then we would usually exchange presents with them because we weren’t going to see them on Christmas Day so, we would usually sit down after dinner and then each family would give everyone else in the other family a present or two each, and they were you know, just wrapped up, might have a ribbon on it, might have just wrapping paper with sticky tape on it with a card on it saying, you know, Merry Christmas, Dave. And then they open the present oh, I got Lego! Uhuh! you know, depending on who it was or it could be a voucher or clothes could be anything, but then on Christmas Eve we would usually be, me and my sister, would usually be incredibly excited because we would go home knowing that Santa was coming that night, right? So, we would be like I can’t wait to get home! Got to sleep!
Did you actually believe in Santa?
What are you talking about, Kel? What do you mean believe? Santa is real, Kel.
Well, of course! Yeah. What else are you going to believe, right? You get told this by your parents and why would you not? You go to sleep, you wake up the next day and there’s all these gifts under the tree.
Yeah, definitely, the evidence.
That weren’t there the day before… So, yeah. I would go to sleep with my sister in the same room or in separate rooms as we got older and we would always be like…”can’t sleep, I can’t sleep! What if Santa comes while we are wake? Oh my Gosh!” . You know, we’d be like “try and listen and hear if we hear his reindeer and his sled land on the roof” and I remember too thinking ”Mum Dad we don’t have a chimney, how does he get in the house?”
Oh that’s so cute!
And mum’s like… we leave the door open, don’t worry, him can get in. And so we would go to sleep thinking that he was coming and he would put the presents under the Christmas tree so, we would have a Christmas tree set up, usually a plastic one. Some people would buy small pine trees that you can like real trees and you’d hang decorations on them like Christmas balls and bells and angels and, you know, gingerbread man, candy canes, holy reindeer, snowmen, everything to do with Christmas on these trees and the presents would usually go under the tree that people had bought one another and then Santa would usually leave our presence in a special sack. So, Mum and Dad had like pillow cases with our names on them and they would be under the tree empty on the night.
For Santa to put the gifts inside.
On the 24, yeah and then the next day we would wake up and we would like, you know, before anything we’d run out and have a look at the tree and look underneath and be like Oh my Gosh! The sacks are full of presents!!!!
This is so cute!
And we were patient, we’d have to go in and wake mum and dad up and be like…
So you couldn’t open the presents before….
No, they had to be there. They had to be there. Yeah. We’d have to go… and it would be so annoying cause sometimes you wake up and it would be like 5am and you’d be like It’s time! It’s time! you know, the sun is not up, but it’s time! And Mum and Dad go back to bed. Yeah because it was so early, they’d be like going to sleep for another hour or two and then we’ll wake up and do it and I’ll be like noooo we have to wait so long to see the presents!
So, what would you usually get? Like, what was like…cars?
Oh yes, so toy cars. I remember Lego used to be something I always wanted! So, we would wake up my parents, they’d come out and they would usually sit on the sofa and we would sit on the ground, Annika and I, my sister and I, in front of the tree and each have our sacks and be pulling the presents out and comparing sizes and being like ”she got more than me! Santa!” or ”she got a bigger one than me or I got a smaller” oh ‘what is this? It’s the shape of a CD or a DVD”.
You know, so you’d be trying to guess what it was. I remember always shaking it hoping that you would hear that jingle of Lego pieces. So, you shake the box and you’ll be like…is it going to be a lot of little pieces? and then you like yeaaah cause you can normally tell the difference between a puzzle or Lego or a DVD or something. And you know the box sort of shape of Lego as well, right? So, yeah I used to get Lego, you’d get all sorts of toys like, water guns, robots, stuffed toys, could be anything.
So, you would get more than one present?.
Yeah, they’d usually…not necessarily spoil us. I remember the presents were never ridiculously expensive. My parents were never really well-off. They were in a similar position that you and I are today when I was very young, maybe a little bit better off, but I think also they never wanted to spoil us, so they would never be like, you know, hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of toys. And I think too because they knew that you’re not going to be playing with that toy for that long, right? You’ll play for it for a few weeks,max, maximum and then you cast it aside and be asking for the next toy and so, they were like well…
What’s the point?
And Lego, far out, that get expensive. You look at some of those huge things and it’s like hundreds of dollars.
So, that used to be it, we would get out in the morning, wake the parents up, go through the presents and then, you know, be like oh man, Santa! What a bad ass! So awesome! Thank you, Santa! Oh, he didn’t give us coal! you know?So there’s the stereotype in or the story, I guess, in Western culture that Santa, he knows who’s been good and who’s bad and you as a child have to be good in order to get presents, if you’re bad, you get coal, right? Like burned wood. He’ll leave you some coal.
Yeah. So there’s always that song, right? “He knows if you’ve been naughty he knows if you’ve been good”, whatever it is, but would, you would your parents put like coal l inside the bag just like oh… that’s because I did this thing…
No, I think that would be like child abuse.
No, I mean, you would get presents but just one piece of coal, just like oh yeah I remember.
I think they probably would have done that if we had had a an open fire at the house where they could have readily access, had access to coal. Maybe, but that never happened though.
I didn’t know this thing.
But we would also leave out, before we went to sleep on the 24th, we used to leave out food and milk for Santa. So, that would, that would be something we would do too, where our snacks were or the Christmas stockings are. Some people buy stockings, like these huge kind of like sock, kind of things for you to put presents in, you quite often in Western culture in America, in Britain, in Australia probably other parts of Europe as well, kids will put food and drink for Santa, because he’s obviously tired, right? After going to what three billion kids homes. So, we would leave milk in a glass and often biscuits that we’d made or something for Santa to eat.
So, in the morning the food would be gone?
It would always be half eaten, my parents would always come and just like take a sip of the milk and probably a few bites of biscuits or the carrot or whatever that was there.
It’s just so cute!
And be like “look! Santa’s eaten some of the stuff! Obviously he liked it and kept going on his way” and we’d always, you know, joke around like oh that’s why Santa’s so fat! He was always getting treats! Poor Santa with his diabetes from all the biscuits and milk.
Just leave him a beer, man. Next time, there you go, Santa.
So, that would be Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and then for Christmas Day we would usually go to my grandmother and grandfather’s house on my mother’s side so, my mother’s family and her parents and that was always much bigger than what I did with my dad’s family because part of his family lives overseas so, it would be a small thing with with his family, with my mum’s family on the other hand we’ve got bigger and bigger as we got older because of her siblings all having children. So, it used to be used, it used to be wild, like we would go to their place in Melbourne so, we’d have to drive for like an hour and a half and then they would have morning tea. So, like shortbread, tea, coffee whatever drinks you want and you sort of wait for everyone to arrive to the party. And then there was a sort of very regimented and strict lunch, it was pretty much the same every single year so, my grandmother would organise a very traditional roast, which was usually turkey and lamb. They would have a turkey and lamb roast beef and they would have their vegetables, the sort of traditional roast and veggies so, you would have things like pumpkin, potato, green beans and I think it would usually be those three and then maybe some salad and she would have other people in the family bring other food too, so someone would bring things like chips, like lollies and.
Chocolates. Yeah, someone will have to bring the rum butter, a special kind of like sweet butter with rum in it.
Yeah, I think I’ve tried it, with cake or something.
Yeah, exactly. And so, we would eat, we’d go through all these courses, you have the first course, which is a little entree with salad, the main course with all the meats, the meatballs, the veggies like potato, pumpkin and she would have peaches, that was a very strange thing I remember always, they always had these like canned fruit peaches that you can have with your dinner. And then dessert would usually be mouse, ice cream, and then the Christmas pudding, the special Christmas pudding, which was a… I think a plum pudding? So very, very it’s like a fruit cake that’s been boiled, a plum pudding that’s been boiled and she would usually pour brandy on it, liqueur, and then light it on fire as they brought it out, right? So, this cake would usually enter the room on fire.
And there was just normal from me, like, everyone does that, right?
I’ve never seen it. I mean we went…I think two weeks ago we went to see your grandparents?
The year before for some reason they failed and they couldn’t light it. I remember. Then last time they just skipped it. The lighting it on fire. And my grandmother does a very strange thing where she puts old Australian currency into the cake, right? So, she takes coins from before 1966, that was in circulation then, but like I think like a threepence and a penny and that kind of old money and she puts that into the cake and if you find certain currency, certain valued coins in there, in your piece of cake, she’ll exchange it for a dollar or two dollars or ten cents or something.
I think I got two dollars or something last time?
Yeah, you got two bucks this year. Yeah. So, that was always, that was my Christmas, and again gift with them we would usually exchange gifts amongst everyone in all the different family members before lunch so, everyone would sit down in the living room in sort of like a big circle with like 20 25 of us and then each family would take turns in handing out gifts to all the people in the different families and it would be anything from like wine or food or jam, like food that people had made or it could be usually toys and small gifts and Barbie dolls that sort of stuff for children.
More interesting things for them to play with, Nerf guns, water pistols. Yeah. So, that was, that was really Christmas for me and then Boxing Day was usually just, the 26th, was usually just a day to rest and chill out. That’s when the Boxing Day sales begin in stores in Western countries so, that’s usually the all of those big commercial stores like Myers, JB HIFI, all of those places that you buy gifts from before Christmas, usually have massive sales when they sell things for like 50 per cent off on Boxing Day and so, there tends to be a whole bunch of crazy capitalism going on as well.
I have experienced that in Townsville, it was great, everything just like half price stuff, yeah, great.
One more thing to add. The interesting thing about Australian Christmas is that it’s during summer and the weird thing for me growing up was… and I never even really thought about this until I got older… that all of the trinkets and decorations and things related to Christmas that you buy, are all winter related.
Yeah, snow and..
You know, like the stocking, snow, snowmen angels, all of these like the decorations on them pine trees, the pine trees, which are from the North, right? You know, pine needles, all of this stuff was always winter related because it comes from Europe and western, western Europe and like the US so, that was always funny for me because we would have Christmas where it’s probably could be anywhere between 30 to 40 degrees and it hasn’t snowed for four months anywhere in Australia and you will go down to the beach and like, you know, play cricket on the beach, go for a swim here and that would usually be our sort of Christmas afternoon so, enjoying the sun so, it’s a bit strange.
It’s the same for me, always hot so, I never really had this like stereotypical Christmas when you have snow and you go outside to play with the snow and things. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Yeah well, I always thought, why are we playing with snowmen? And it’s like… we don’t…
We don’t have it!
We don’t have snow, exactly! Why is Santa dressed in such warm gear? And so, that would be the stereotype those jokes on TV and stuff we’re Santa is wearing shorts and a singlet or something at the beach.
Same in Brazil.
So, what was it like for you growing up then Kel, in Brazil, compared to the sort of Western Australian, British and American Christmas, what was it like for you in Brazil?
It’s a bit different, I would say, it was…was something I would be looking forward to during the year as a child just like Yeah, Christmas! Not so much because of the presents I would get, but because of the food.
Oh really? So, you’re sort of the opposite of me, I’d always be like presents first and then like ah, do we have to eat?
I think it depends on your financial situation in Brazil, it depends a lot on it. So, if you… if your parents have more money or your family has more money you may have a bigger party, but my family is quite big and we didn’t have a lot so, it was this one time of the year there we would do something really big and it was amazing. So, yeah I would be all excited about it, but the thing is we celebrate it differently like we…our party happens on the 24th.
Yeah. I remember you telling me this and being like, what do you mean it happens on Christmas Eve? You celebrate Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day?
We spend the whole day, Christmas Eve, cooking, preparing the house, cleaning and then we get ready, like usually you have new clothes, and you stay awake until midnight, that’s when you have dinner with your family and you open presents.
Yeah. So, I would be so excited because I didn’t really have rules in my house like children go to bed at 8p.m, but it’s hard for a child to be awake, you know, until really late, so I would…that would be one of the very rare occasions when my sister and I would be awake until midnight or 1a.m.
See, for us that would be New Year’s Eve that we were like oh we get to stay up late. Christmas Eve would never be one where we could stay up to midnight. And I think mainly because our parents wouldn’t stay up that long, right? Because they’re in bed by whatever time so, we would be in bed before then. Specially as little kids, whereas for New Year’s, New Year’s Eve, they would be up all night. So, of course we were more able to stay up late on those sorts of days.
So, for us yeah we would stay awake until like midnight, 1:00a.m. and then at midnight to have fireworks and, you know, you say Merry Christmas and you hug and you exchange presents and you have food.
Did you have that thing with Santa, though, too? Are you waiting for Santa to come? Some people do, but honestly, I’ve never had this thing in my house. Mum would never, like my family just would never be like Santa Claus is coming… we didn’t, I don’t ever remember thinking about it. Like, oh yeah he’s coming. No. I knew my mum would get the presents and it was like… listening to you explaining how exciting it was, I kind of feel like I wish I had had it, you know, so magical and like I can’t imagine be so excited about something. I was excited, but you know, just thinking ”oh is he going to give me a lot of presents?”. I already knew it was my mum or my grandmother.
I think is one of those things you snap out of it pretty, pretty quickly and you realise that I think for me I discovered when I walked into my parents room one day and they had the receipt for all the gifts on the wall.
I was like, mum how come the receipt here is like literally all the gifts that I got for Christmas?
What did she say?
”We bought them for Santa. So, that he could give them to you” and I’m pretty much walked out like ”Annika, Santa is not real!”.
No way. That’s so funny. I never had this moment. Like, I always knew it was mum or dad or someone so, I didn’t have….I was excited about what I would get, but not because of Santa like it was just like I know Grandma it’s probably going to give me something, so…
Looking back on it, though, I think… how did we not think Mum, Dad why haven’t you given us any presents? Santa gave us all this stuff, you gave us nothing!
Can Santa be my dad?
Yeah so, then we would have dinner with the family and there was a really, you know, massive sort of dinner, we would have like…my family doesn’t like turkey, is very popular in Brazil, but we never really liked it so, we’d have this big chicken, full of chemicals or whatever, but yeah really a massive chicken.
Been given steroids, had it?
It’s like first of December, something happens all the chickens are massive! I’m like ok… So, a lot of rice with raisins. All the other things are in Portuguese so, I know I’m not quite sure.
How to translate them.
How to translate them, but yeah.
So very traditional food then?
Very traditional food, lasagne…
Well yeah…brigadeiro, things like that we would have for Christmas.
This chocolate desserts.
Yeah there was it. And then we would eat and go to bed.
So, was it a very religious event for your? Or celebration too, we should talk about that.
Some people, not for me personally, my family… we would watch the, what do you call it, mass?
I was thinking Mars, the planet.
With the Pope?
With the Pope and everything.
Because obviously you guys are catholic.
Yea but I remember grandma going to church, but I wouldn’t, it was just like ah, whatever, you know?
It was the same for me.
But some people really follow like the traditional, they go to church and the mass finishes before midnight so, you have time to go home, you know, have dinner.
Wow, goes that late, though? Holly Molly.
It’s quite late, but IT has to finish before like 11:00, I would say.
So that the family can celebrate.
So, in Australia, I guess, is a Christian holiday, right? It’s about the birth of Jesus and, you know, celebrating new life, everything like that, but I think the average person in Australia isn’t very religious. They will probably… the average person’s probably atheist, right? At least not actively practicing a religion. So, if anything they’re sort of Christian through their family, but they don’t go to church and they don’t actively pray and that sort of stuff. So, for us it’s still the holidays kind of now detached from Christianity and going to church and practising it like that. We never did that growing up, but my mum and her family were Christian when she was young or at least her family still is, she’s not anymore, but they would go to church and they still do. So, they still go to church on Christmas Day and I think it’s the morning service on Christmas Day that they go to so, we always have to arrive after they’ve gone to church and that’s usually I think, that usually starts at like 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and finishes after an hour or two.
Yeah. So, it is a Christian holiday, but it’s not just for Christians to celebrate. That’s, that’s the point I’m trying to get at. In America, in Australia, in many parts of Europe, Christian countries have this celebration, but everyone takes part, whether you’re Christian or not so.
Same in Brazil.
So yeah. So it’s not weird to meet people who are Indian or people who are from the Middle East or from Africa living in Australia and still celebrating Christmas with the rest of us, because you don’t have to be a Christian to still, you know, want to get a Christmas tree, put decorations on it, buy presents for people say thank you to everyone and kind of just celebrate being a big community and what you’ve got.
Well, it is it is a family sort of thing in Brazil and it’s very, you know, related to religion, although my family is not extremely religious, but yeah my grandma would go to church, if I’m not mistaken, but then yeah, some people do, some people don’t. So yeah. So that was my 24th and then on the next day, the 25th, we would just eat the leftovers, for lunch and for dinner, and if there was anything else where we would eat the next day.
How much did you cook?
Oh man. You have no idea. We literally cook for like four or five days because everyone is so tired after that.
It makes sense.
My poor mum, she would cook the whole thing by herself. And, you know, that’s when my sister and I would get involved. We would help her with things like cakes and stuff just being so curious around the kitchen and that was really exciting. And she would give as like oh you make the brigadeiros or you make this cake and things. So, the very few things I know how to cook, are because you know my mum doing Christmas cooking around the house and me watching and helping her. So, yeah and I think that’s when it differs from your celebration in Australia because we don’t have like…some people do have Christmas lunch on the 25th, but the main thing is the midnight thing on the 24th.
That’s the main party when everyone gets together, we open presents and everything. The next day is like some people get together. Some people don’t and we don’t have Boxing Day. So, all the sales and things would be before Christmas, before the 24th because you need to buy presents for people to open on the 24th. So, if you want to buy cheap stuff it has to be before Christmas, we don’t have Boxing Day, I’m quite sure it’s a holiday. And then that’s it and then we start a for a New Year’s Eve and yeah…pretty much. You were mentioning the presents you would get. I’d get one present. One, like, it would be a toy or it would be new clothes or new shoes or, you know…
Something useful too that you kinda needed.
Definitely. My mum and my grandmother would just like put a little bit of money into something a bit better, like I’m gonna get you a new dress.
So, it was a much more practical sort of present.
Yeah. I would get toys from my dad because he wasn’t living with me so, he was like oh I’ll visit you, he would come over, drop a few, like one present for me, one present for my sister and that was it, but my, the family I was living with, my mum my grandma, my aunts, they would give me useful sort of things like shoes, clothes or whatever.
I remember too, when we used to go through this stage on Christmas Day all the kids in the neighbourhood used to leave the house after they’d gotten the gifts, right? In the morning and you would see all these children playing in the street with new toys. So there’d be kids with like electric race cars, new skateboard, maybe a kite, always playing and especially if you knew the kids quite often you would be like taking turns
What did you get?
Yeah. What did you get for Christmas? Wow, that’s awesome. Can I have a go? Can I try your new skateboard? And so, that was always really fun. Oh and we used to have, on the 24th, Santa would come around on the fire engine and so, we were showing you this recently. So, the fire brigade , he CFA, I forgot what that stands for, the CFA in Australia is the fire brigade, the people who sent out when there’s a fire and often they would pay…they would fund themselves, they’d buy little bags of candy or lollies, as we call them in Australia, lolly bags and Santa, someone dressed up as Santa, would usually be on the top of one of these red and white fire engines and that would drive around the streets playing Christmas music, Christmas Carols and hand out the lolly bags to children. And so that used to happen as well, you would hear the music in the background on the 24th and be like ‘Santa is nearby, where is he?’ and, you know, you walk out in the street and he’s waving on the back of a truck and you’d be like ”yeah, lollies!!” and he’d walk out and just give you some lollies and be like HO HO HO.
I’m sure we have that, I remember that in my city, but Santa doesn’t drive around, you know, he is somewhere sitting down in his chair and you go to him, you take photos and then he might give you a lollipop or something.
Well, we have those at the moment set up in like malls. So, we saw it today. If you go to malls anywhere nearby, you’ll often see this big chair with Santa on it and you can get photos, that’s usually for children to get photos with Santa. So, that’s something else, but I guess sort of finishing up if you guys want to celebrate Christmas in Australia, the good thing is there is no one way of doing it. You can make it as big or as small as you want, but probably the biggest things, I would say, is just get a Christmas tree. However you sort of want to get it like a real tree, a plastic tree, it could be a gumtree that you bought, a small one, you can have whatever you want, but the spirit, the idea there is just to have some kind of tree and then to put decorations on it and again you can sort of make whatever you want. I remember my parents and my grandparents when we were growing up used to get us to sort of do creative art and make things out of native plants, like gumtrees, we’d use the gum nuts and like other things and glue them on to like horse shoes or something and put them on the tree so you can make your own gifts and do that with the kids and be involved and I guess the biggest thing is just share presence with those people that are important to you on Christmas day, whether it’s food, something you’ve cooked, something you’ve made.
That something I really like about Australia. I don’t think we have the same sort of tradition, not so strong in Brazil. Like you cook something for someone, you make something, like it can be just a card or something. I love that. We are much more like you buy something new. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but you usually buy something.
I think my parents and my family and my extended family have sort of gotten to a point now where you realise it’s just capitalism, right? You’re just spending money on things people aren’t necessarily needing. They don’t necessarily want, that they’re not going to use for very long and so a lot more, at least in recent years, my family, my immediate family like my sister and my parents as well as my extended family, now make things like their own wine or they’ll put together some kind of like Protein Balls or a bag of nuts or some lollies or they’ll make food, they’ll cook gingerbread, gingerbread man like my sister is going to do tomorrow. And then they give that to the family so, you can do that with your culture, right ?Like whatever it is. If you guys are from say India and you can cook some really good food there that you could give to other people, people really appreciate getting interesting new things and I would be like…like Kel’s planning on cooking food that’s Brazilian and handing that out to the family.
That will be really nice.
Yeah, exactly. Anyway, so, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this episode and it has given you some understanding of Australian culture and what Christmas is like here in Australia and how it compares to Christmas in Brazil, but I would definitely love to know from you, guys, how you guys celebrate Christmas or what you celebrate instead of Christmas during this period of the year, and I guess until next time, guys.
Merry Christmas. See you soon!