One of the defining images of Christmas in Australia in the eyes of people from around the world is of Santa Claus making a spectacular entrance on a surfboard, wearing a T-shirt and shorts. While the reality may not be quite as flamboyant, Christmas in summer is a novel concept to people from Northern Hemisphere countries, including Japan.
Christmas Day is a public holiday in Australia, and this necessitates that everyone complete their Christmas shopping by the evening of Christmas Eve at the latest. In the period leading up to Christmas Day, shopping malls have extended opening hours, to give everyone the best opportunity to find that last-minute gift for a friend or relative.
But gift shopping isn’t the only activity that takes place at this time. A traditional Christmas lunch or dinner consists of roast meat and vegetables, followed by dessert, and all of the dishes need to be prepared in advance. Understandably, then, supermarkets and butchers do a roaring trade during this period.
I would describe my own family’s Christmas celebrations as very traditional. After rising earlier than usual in the morning, we exchange gifts. A short time later, we hop into the car and drive to our relatives’ home on the other side of the city. My mother or father will bring along a dish to add to the Christmas spread. When we arrive at my relatives’ home, preparations for Christmas lunch are always being finalized, which leaves some time to mingle and catch up with my cousins.
When lunch is ready, it truly resembles a feast. Roast turkey or pork is the central dish, but it is accompanied by a wide assortment of side dishes such as roast potatoes and pumpkin, turkey stuffing, salad and cooked vegetables. For a Japanese touch, raw salmon is also offered. The roast turkey or pork wouldn’t be complete without gravy or cranberry sauce. My cousin also started a new family tradition in recent times by taking a photo of my father and I as we were photographing the Christmas spread, and immediately posting it on social media!
During the meal, we also utilize Christmas crackers that sound like mini-fireworks when opened. They contain terrible Christmas-themed jokes and paper party hats inside that we usually wear for the rest of the day. Dessert consists of a traditional Christmas pudding, containing fruit and nuts, and a range of other pastries.
After lunch, we gather in the living room area. One person is designated the role of “Santa” for the day, which simply requires them to hand out a Christmas gift to each person, while everyone else watches in anticipation to see what the unwrapping will reveal. Our family system for buying gifts is to assign each person the task of purchasing a gift for one other person.
Once gifts have been received, it basically marks the end of the day, though we can continue to enjoy Christmas Day leftovers for the next few days. In contrast, Christmas Day in Japan for the past three years has been a normal working day for me, which has become a custom of its own.
flamboyant (adj.) ? behaving or dressing in a way that attracts people’s attention
do a roaring trade (idiom) ? to sell large amounts of something in a short period of time
assortment (n) ? a group or set of things of various types
designate (v) ? to formally choose someone or something for a particular purpose