I'll admit it, I was not really looking forward to our first Christmas in Australia. This would have been only the second time I was not at home in Canada with my family for Christmas. (The first was when I was 17, on exchange in France for the year). With my brother living in California, Christmas is the only time of year we can both get home, and it's always nice to catch up with my old friends in Canada. We also have lots of little traditions we do every Christmas as a family, which have changed over the years, but generally go something like this: On Christmas Eve we go to church in the evening followed by drinks at the St. Onge's, my mom's best friend and my oldest childhood friend. 'The kids' (that's us!) normally watch 'A Muppets Christmas Carole', and the adults chat and drink Bailey's and eggnog (eventually this part also included us). Then when we got home Michael and I would have to go straight to bed so that 'Santa' could come.
|Michael at home in Canada. Only 3 glasses this year :(|
Christmas morning is normally just my mom, dad and brother, and now that we are both older it's a lazy and indulgent affair. Bailey's and coffee to start, and my mom's special cinnamon bun bread while we open our stockings. This is followed by a big breakfast, where my dad is 'allowed' to eat as much bacon as he likes! By now we have also moved on to champagne and orange juice to drink, and we fill up on our big breakfast before getting to the main present opening. My mom has 3 siblings that live in the area, and over the years various combinations of aunts, uncles and cousins have come to ours for Christmas dinner. Boxing day is for visiting my dad's side of the family, generally finishing in Burlington with my Aunt Barb and cousins Joanne and Aaron to watch the Canadian juniors play their first hockey match of the World Junior Hockey championships.
My mom and dad have always worked hard to make sure we have a special Christmas and I hope that when Andy and I finally have kids we are able to do the same for them, as I am full of happy memories of my last 31 Christmases.
This year was to be very different, as we were staying in Melbourne with no family to celebrate with. We do have a group of expat friends however, who are in the same boat as us, and our friends Laura and Dan kindly offered to host Christmas lunch at their house this year.
In the morning we woke up and had some coffee and Bailey's and a FaceTime with Andy's parents. Then we opened a few small presents we had got for each other, along with my parents gift to us. Then we cooked a big breakfast and had our champagne and orange juice and FaceTimed my family. You can see I was desperately trying to hold on to some of my Christmas traditions... well the ones revolving around food and alcohol anyway! After that it was time to make our way to Dan and Laura's for lunch.
|Laura's lovely Christmas table|
We kicked it off with specially made cocktails by Laura: a beer cocktail for the boys and a champagne cocktail for the girls. Lunch was a BBQ featuring lamb, ham and beef, and after lunch we all went to the Middle Park beach. The weather was spectacular during the day, 31 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Apparently we were quite lucky with this; our friends that have been here for 5 years said this was the first warm and sunny Christmas they've had in Melbourne!
|Laura and Andy testing out the cocktails|
|Middle Park Beach|
|Laura, Gemma and me|
While at the beach I conquered a big fear I've had since coming to Australia: swimming in the ocean. I don't mean splashing in shallow water, I mean swimming out a few hundred metres and back as a work out. I swim 1km or more regularly in the pool in our building, but get freaked out swimming in water I can't see the bottom of. And I know, Port Philip Bay isn't really the open sea, and it's generally quite calm and devoid of sea life in and around Melbourne (except for the jellyfish). It has just been a mind over matter thing. Anyway, for some reason I just decided that afternoon that I would get over whatever was stopping me from swimming out there and just do it! Dan regularly swims out to the posts that are about 200m from the shore so he was happy to swim out with me, and Andy came along too. And I just did it! It was hard mind you, my breathing was very shallow and irregular (sort of like hyperventilating) and I was pretty shattered at the end even though it was less than 400m of swimming, but I was super proud of myself! So much so that I went out with Dan again about an hour later, and this time I was calmer and it didn't feel quite so hard.
After a few hours at the beach we went back to Dan and Laura's and played a 'Stealing Kris Kringle' game that we play with my mom's family sometimes at Christmas. At the start of the game everyone was being super polite and not 'stealing' the presents, however by the end of it all pretences were dropped and there was lots of presents changing hands by the end of it! Andy and I also introduced my favourite party game, which friends will recognise as a variation of Taboo and Charades ("I have no idea what this is".... "Versailles!" - An inside joke for the Brixton crew). That too was super fun, and you could see
some people's competitive side come out at this point! Andy's team beat mine and I think that was down to Andy's superb ability to act out words during the third round of the game.
All in all I had a really fun day with our friends. Did it feel like Christmas? No, not really. But maybe that's ok. I woke up feeling a sad that I wasn't with my family and tried to recreate our Christmas mornings. But really, those are not the things that make it feel like Christmas to me. No amount of food and Bailey's can replace
quality with family. Luckily we have Andy's parents coming to visit us soon, and next Christmas my family will be in Melbourne celebrating with us. But still, I am thankful for the friends we have here and that we were able to have a fun filled day with them this year.