Christmas in summer

Inflatable santas afloat on Darling Harbour, Sydney

As the temperature rises in Australia this Christmas, how many of us will be putting up pine trees (whether plastic or recently harvested), hanging them with snowmen and reindeer and sweltering over roasting poultry?

Percy the Festive Platypus
Percy the Festive Platypus

My response is to wish all my readers a Happy Christmas, from me and from Percy the Festive Platypus. I found Percy many years ago in a local shop, but of late he is a rarity among the seemingly exclusively northern hemisphere festive tat – reindeer, nutcracker dolls, snow and sleighs. Such finds as Percy seemed common enough once, but lately, it seems, not so many antipodean decorative items are to be found among the Christmas decorations available in most shops.

What has become of our antipodean Christmas celebration? What do snowy scenes and reindeer have to do with celebrating in shorts and thongs? Where is our regionally-specific and culturally appropriate decorative tat in this increasingly globalised economy? And why do we (or at least I, and quite a few others I know) persist with putting up a tree and decorating the house, in the complete absence of small children?

In this post, Percy and I are on a mission to share with you some of our favourite festive trinkets, bringing back memories of childhood, crafty relations, dollar shop bargains, bits of bling collected on our travels and others unearthed by enterprising friends.

Knitted nativty scene, circa 1973
Knitted nativty scene, circa 1973

I suppose one reason I persist in putting up the Christmas tree and spreading decorative tat around the place each year is to recall something of childhood – the simple pleasure of marking the year by gathering some favourite toys around.

I think these three kings were fresh from appearing in a season of Jesus Christ Superstar
I think these three kings were fresh from appearing in a season of Jesus Christ Superstar

These crocheted treasures have held a central place in our family’s collective hearts for many years, since my mother (a demon crafter in her day) created them from scraps of wool, ping-pong balls, cardboard, matchsticks and glue some time during the early 1970s. I guess we didn’t have China churning out cheap tat for us back then, and less money (with a growing family to feed and clothe) to spend on such baubles.

Festive cows of Christmas
Festive cows of Christmas

These festive cows have been a bit of a tradition in my family since my sisters ran a batch of these bovine baubles up on mum’s Husquvana a few decades back.

Hand stiched doves are another crafted contribution
Hand stiched doves are another crafted contribution

In similar crafted vein, these much treasured hand-stitched doves were created by one of my sisters way back when everyone clearly had more time on their hands.

Babooshka santas
Babooshka santas

This set of santas are babooshka dolls – the small one fits inside the next bigger one and so on. Wonderful for storage. Found many years ago in a local two-dollar shop (Chickenfeed), when such places seemed to have genuine variety and a few treasures amongst their shoddy goods.

A highland cow, brought back from Scotland by dad some years ago
A highland cow, brought back from Scotland by dad some years ago

My dad is not much into Christmas, and probably never intended that this Scottish souvenir would end up among my festive decorations, but who could resist? A little cuteness, however, goes a long way and I’m not sure that I could bear to look at it all year round.

Robot man
Robot man

I have two of these old-fashioned toys. For those of the nintendo generation, the point of these is that one holds them by the base and makes them ‘dance’, pushing in the button underneath, which causes the toy’s elasticised joints to loosen and flop. Hours of fun.

I bought these from the late, lamented Gowings in Sydney many years ago. It was a nostalgic mix of gentlemen’s outfitter (the sort of place one imagines one’s grandfather buying his slippers) and retro goodies like these. They had a mailorder catalogue for a while, before they closed, from which I would regularly buy frivolous baubles like these.

Dancing cow
Dancing cow

My other toy in this set is a collapsing cow – is there a bit of a bovine theme going on behind all this?

Surfing Santa
Surfing Santa

This is Surfing Santa the nutcracker. I found this fine fellow in one of our major chain stores a couple of years ago, and points to them for cultural specificity. The shorts, hat, wineglass and painted-on thongs are a nice touch. Not sure that he’s much good for cracking nuts, but Surfing Santa has earned a place in my festive firmament (even if he is mass-produced in Shenzen).

Another related reason as I have aged is using the festive season to recall my travels around the world. I’m not a big souvenir buyer, but when travelling I do seek out little objects which speak of the place they were from and which can form an element of my festive decorations.

 

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My Argentinian choir boys

My choirboys might not be specifically Australian, having been acquired on a visit to Argentina some years ago. However Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, so they count as antipodean, and travel is also such a fundamental aspect of our contemporary culture.

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Festive Eiffel Tower

A souvenir of a visit to Paris a few years ago.

A very festive rooster, acquired on a trip to China
A very festive rooster, acquired on a trip to China
My bactrian camel was purchased in a town somewhere in the Gobi Desert in western China
My bactrian camel was purchased in a town somewhere in the Gobi Desert in western China
A miniature Chinese teapot, acquired at a night market in Shanghai
A miniature Chinese teapot, acquired at a night market in Shanghai
Thai silk elephant
Thai silk elephant

This year’s addition to the festive travel souvenirs came from Thailand. A set of elephant keyrings in colourful Thai silk are making a tropical contribution to the tree.

Tracey the Tasmanian Devil - all blinged up and ready for the bright lights
Tracey the Tasmanian Devil – all blinged up and ready for the bright lights

Finally a festive bauble with a distinctly Tasmanian flavour. My good friend Julie found this sparkly devil at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery gift shop.

Sparkly ringtail possum
Sparkly ringtail possum

Another friend, Chris this year found a very sparkly possum there too

Does your festive decor reflect in any way the reality of a Southern Hemisphere summer Christmas, or some other aspect of your life that is important to you? I’ve opened comments on this post and would love to hear (and see, if you’d care to post some pics).

Stay safe and have the merriest of antipodean summer Christmases.

7 thoughts on “Christmas in summer

  1. My background is Polish so my Christmas celebrations are as Eastern European as they get. My parents migrated here landing on New Years Eve 1949. They had to bring my older brother who was 2 at the time, but for me as a child, it was the couple of exquisite glass birds and assorted baubles that made it intact after a six week sea adventure that hung on my parents tree year in and out, and that now hang on mine that bring the heart of Christmas into my home. FOOD: that great Polish tradition to not only feed the family, but maybe a visiting boys choir extends to my table too. Potato salad is a must, as is dill pickled cucumbers, salami, along with baked ham and turkey. My mum loved pavlova so that became our Christmas desert. Never ever had it at other times, just Christmas. Thanks for sharing your Christmas blog, and I loved that platypus. Have a wonderful Christmas.

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    1. Thanks Theresa, great family history there, and isn’t it amazing how the humble pavlova makes its way into every celebration and family – the great leveller?

      For what it’s worth, I usually end up making a potato salad too – have made a warm potato salad for years and it’s become a family favourite and standing request at Christmas dinner.

      Have a great one!

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  2. I’m a Pom and have always found the beach Xmas, while delightful a little “non Christmassy”. So the tree and the later traditional “all the trimmings” dinner when the sun goes down is my way of connecting to my past and the friends and family I left behind.

    We have a tiny fake tree and it just squeezed in the car. Would win no awards, but gets a ooohhh when you turn the lights on.

    I’ve got the turkey and goose on standby, is it me or do they get bigger each year! I love brussel sprouts (gentle steamed then sauted with Xmas ham, garlic and sage butter).

    Life is memories and how lucky I am to have lots of fond ones to look back on and move forward to.

    Merry Christmas Andrew and may 2016 bring us all happiness and good health.

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    1. Hi Nicola, I love Brussel sprouts too – although it’s usually salads for Christmas for us. My tree is a rubbish plastic one too (we always had a pine sapling when I was young; they were spindly and usually a bit rubbish too, but they smelled devine), and the lights definitely help the illusion.

      All the best to you and yours too

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  3. Love the platypus. As this is my first summer Christmas, I was surprised by the amount of winter based decorations. We’ve tried to make things totally different to our UK traditions, so I made a driftwood christmas tree, have minimal decorations, no tinsel in sight. Instead bunting made from old atlas pages and some small huon pine ornaments. Prawns and scallops on the barbie for Christmas Day lunch. A lovely time, suitable to the weather yesterday. But did it feel like Christmas? Not really.

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