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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My other toy in this set is a collapsing cow – is there a bit of a bovine theme going on behind all this?
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.
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.
A souvenir of a visit to Paris a few years ago.
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.
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.
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.