Monday, January 10, 2011

Christmas in Australia

Because HA went home with me last year for Christmas, there was an agreement that I would stay in Australia with him this year. I made this agreement over a year ago not having any idea where I’d be living or where I’d be working. So as Christmas got closer and closer and I continued to live in Australia, I realized that I really was going to have to spend Christmas in Australia.

I began to worry about gifts for HA’s family. My personal motto on gifts are that they should be items that someone wants but would probably never buy themselves. I don’t like to buy the “easy” gift – perfume, dvd’s..they make great gifts, but where I can, I like to make them a bit more personalized. So, I asked HA for the rules around gift giving. His response – “We buys each person a gift". There were going to be 11 people at Christmas – not including Adam and I. That's alot of gifts to buy! So I set out buying gifts. I picked up a few in the US when I was home for Thanksgiving but the majority of my shopping had to happen in Australia. Unfortunately the shopping in Australia sucks….especially in Canberra. So given this, I ended up have a number of gifts shipped from the US. Even without much help from HA for ideas, I ended up with gifts that I felt good about.

Before I go much further here, I think it’s very important to explain that Christmas in Oz is NOTHING like Christmas in the US. In the US, there are constant holiday songs, all of the malls are decked out, there’s a Santa at every mall, and…there’s a spirit to Christmas. It’s not like that here. I didn’t hear one Christmas song on the radio, the only Santa I saw at the mall was skinny and sitting in front of a green screen so you could be photoshopped onto a beach, and the decorations in the stores were depressing. To help with trying to get into the Christmas mood, I purchased a little tree and hung some lights in the apartment which helped a bit.
So Christmas Eve rolls around and HA and I walk into work (we got to wear jeans!). We work for a half day, then go home to finish wrapping presents before we have to catch our flight. We end up having to take three decent size suitcases b/c of all our presents. We finally get to Brisbane after our flight had to circle for 45 minutes in the air. Unfortunately, we were so late that his brother and nephews had to go home to sleep so we couldn’t all have Xmas Eve dinner together. In my house, we have a very quiet dinner of chili and cornbread and then stay up playing board games. In HA’s family, they have turkey for Xmas Eve dinner – poached turkey. I didn’t even realize it was turkey until after dinner – I had thought it was pork. It wasn’t quite the traditional turkey dinner I’m used to but it was nice to have a bit of familiarity.

We got to stay in the "adult house" while we were there.  Meaning we stayed with HA's sister at her house on the river.  It was actually really nice to have a bit of quiet time.  The three nephews were alot of work.  I grew up with girls - I'm not used to having so many boys around.  The picture below is of his sister's house on the one sunny day we got.  I'd like to note that they live right on the Brisbane river which is now flooding.  I've included a picture of the river as well.  Since we were there, the water has risen 4 to 5 meters.  Their house isn't on the flood plane and expect to be ok though.

Looking down to the river. Most of the land you see by the river has flooded.
On Christmas day, we get to his parents house mid-morning and very quickly get to opening presents. The three boys hand out the presents – at least that’s the same – the youngest handing out the presents. I quickly realize, though, that HA may not have given me the correct rules for gifts. I’m starting to notice that there are a lot of gifts being given by multiple people – primarily by the couples. Example: HA Sister and Bro-in-law gives me a gift. My suspicions are quickly confirmed when both his sisters say “why didn’t you go in on gifts together?? You didn’t need to buy each individual person a gift”. least I know if I do Christmas with them again.
After presents, dinner starts to be set up. As we had turkey for Xmas eve dinner, can you guess what we’re having for Christmas dinner? That’s right – SEAFOOD. Well, seafood and a lot of pork & ham. This is a tradition in the HA family – one that I think I struggled with the most. The seafood dinners weren’t new to me – we have one every time we go to visit HA’s family. But they were different. So we sat outside under the covered patio while it rained and had seafood.

Christmas dinner - notice on the top picture that the skin is pulled back from the pig leg.
Much of the rest of the time we spent in Brisbane was spent at his parents house playing the Kinect that I got HA. The boys really enjoyed it and it kept everyone entertained. I did get a break on Monday when HA’s mom scheduled a spa day for all the girls. That was really nice to get a massage and then relax with champagne in the spa.
This is HA and his nephew playing boxing on the Kinect.  His nephew has a broken arm so everyone had to play with one had behind their back.  His nephew beat everyone in the family.
HA also took me for a drive to the Gold Coast to have a nice lunch on the water and then a bit of shopping (thankfully it didn’t rain that day!). On the drive to the coast, we stopped at Yatala Pies which apparently are some of the best pies in the country (think savory pies – not sweet). The pie was pretty good. I had a steak pie with mashed potatoes and peas. It sounds gross but it’s pretty yummy.
Yatala Pie - Steak pie with mashed potatoes and peas
On Thursday, we said good-bye to HA’s family and headed on to Sydney for New Year’s Eve! But I’ll leave that for another post.


  1. Sounds like a good time was had by all. The pie looks good, did you eat it all??

  2. I sure did. I'm not a huge fan of savory pies but I do like the steak pie with mashed potatoes! Yum!

  3. Interesting to read about different customs.