Australia, a continent associated with warm weather and beaches... But what's Christmas like there?
To learn more, we asked Monique to share her family's holiday traditions "from the bush!"(saying meaning in the wild/countryside). Young mother of three, it warmed our heart to hear her speak about the magic of Christmas through her girls' eyes.
Can you please set the scene and present your family?
I am a farmer’s wife and mother to three little wildflowers : Ava (4yrs), Sophia (2.5yrs) and Georgia (1yr). We live in Central Queensland, on the eastern coast, on one of my husband’s family’s cattle and cropping farms. Due to our location, Christmas is in Summer and it is usually very hot. There is no sign of snow here, that’s for sure.
Do you tend to reproduce the “cold winter magic”?
We don't reproduce the 'cold winter magic' Christmas day per say, although some of our Christmas decorations do reflect and pay tribute to cold and snowy landscapes.
Our Summer days get past top temperatures of 40 degree celsius! It's just 'stinkin' hot' (an Australian slang saying) so our activities, dishes and clothing choices all reflect Summer in its very essence. Due to the heat, I would say, Christmas has more of a relaxed, casual feel as everyone retreats to the cool to celebrate, eat and drink. Any Australian will be glad to find water on Christmas day whether that's the beach, a pool or even a blow up kiddies pool more than imitate winter celebrations.
What does your month of December look like and what are your traditions?
As we are a young family, we are actually still forming and refining our Christmas traditions. It's such an exciting and joyous time in our household.
We love to assemble our Christmas tree mid-November to the hum of the air conditioner and singing of Christmas carols. Our Christmas’ are alternated between both my husband’s family and mine. As living “in the bush” means that we have a minimum of a 2-3 hour drive, we usually spend Christmas Eve until Boxing day with our relatives. That’s why we like to put our tree up early so that we have time (at home) to revel in the magic of Christmas.
We also hang the girls’ stockings and place a wreath on our door (not that we have too many guests at the farm) and get out all of our favourite Christmas story books. Each night before bed we read the girls a Christmas story of their choosing, and it’s safe to say that their Christmas wish lists often get recited too!
Whenever we are in ‘town’, we show the girls the Christmas light displays and their little faces are always in awe of the houses and yards decked out in lights and decorations.
We also love to watch the broadcast of Carols in the Domain or Carols by Candlelight on television as we aren’t able to attend something like this in person. These are two major events here! The first one is a Christmas concert with Australia's biggest celebrities held in the Domain of Sydney, a huge open space. The second takes place in Melbourne’s Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a huge outdoor bandshell. The place lights up while raising funds for Vision Australia’s children’s services. It is part of our Australian traditions to single carols illuminated by candles everywhere in the country.
Can you share about Christmas cooking in your family and in Australia?
Ava and Sophia love to bake with me and it’s wonderful to see how much they are improving in the kitchen. Before children, I always baked a selection of sweet treats before Christmas, and now I get to do that with my girls which is so special.
One of the recipes that we will be making together this year are Brownie Bombs. These are always a huge hit with everyone and make a lovely and sweet Christmas gift.
Barbequed (or traditional roast) styled meals and cool, refreshing and fruity desserts are also popular for Christmas.
Brownie Bombs recipe
For the brownies
20 cm/8inch square shaped cake pan
125 g/4 ounces of butter cut into rough pieces
200g/ (6½ ounces) of dark eating (semi-sweet) chocolate, roughly chopped
2/3 cup of very fine caster sugar
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 1/4 cup of sifted plain flour
1/3 cup of dark rum
For the icing/decoration
200g/ 6½ ounces of dark eating (semi-sweet) chocolate, roughly chopped and melted
60 g/ 2 ounces of melted white eating chocolate
* Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
*Mix the butter and 200g of chocolate in a pan over low heat to obtain a smooth mixture.
*Pour into a large bowl and allow to cool for 10 min.
*Add in the sugar, eggs and flour.
*Pour the mixture into the previously greased pan covered with baking paper and bake for about 30 min. Allow to cool in the pan.
*Cut the cake into large pieces and pour in the dark rum until the mixture blends in.
*Roll heaped teaspoons of mixture into balls.
*Put in the freezer for 10 minutes.
*Dip the balls into the melted remaining 200g of chocolate. Put it in the fridge until it sets.
* Drizzle with 60g of melted white eating chocolate and top with pieces of red glacé cherry.
How do you celebrate Christmas?
On Christmas Eve, before going to bed, the girls leave a plate with a bunch of carrots for the reindeer and a glass of milk with a shortbread or gingerbread biscuit for Santa.
Our Christmas Day starts early with the checking of their stockings and the unwrapping of presents. What a delight it is as a parent to see the excitement and joy on your children’s faces as they unwrap their gifts!
Breakfast is served and then an assortment of chocolates, Christmas baking and cheese boards are nibbled on before the main meal. After lunch everyone has some quiet time to literally ‘rest and digest’. Then when the weather cools down in the afternoon, we go outdoors to play with the girls and relatives or go for a swim. Drinks and laughter are shared, and we usually indulge in lunch leftovers for dinner. It’s nice to reflect on the year that has passed and really be grateful for all that we have.