Friday, December 7, 2012

An Aussie Christmas - A Guest Post for Lost In Books

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest blog post on Lost In Books Blog. For the month of December she has guest posters writing posts about Christmas. For my post I decided to do an Australian Christmas themed post. I have posted what I wrote here but please go to Rebecca's blog for more fun posts about Christmas. So far there has been Christmas Poetry, Non-Traditional Children's  Holiday Books and Weird Christmas Traditions as well as my own post. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it for Becca. Thanks Becca for the opportunity it was so much fun (did I say that already? oh well it needed saying twice anyway).

Note - I did fix up a few minor grammatical and spelling errors that was in the original post.

An Australian Christmas is very different to the Northern Hemisphere Christmas. For starters it is smack dab in the middle of Summer and if you live in the far north of Australia it is the middle of wet season. It has always been difficult for me to reconcile the images of a Northern Hemisphere Christmas with the Christmas I have experienced my whole life. My idea of a great Christmas is when the monsoon has come down early and it rains all day on Christmas day. Nothing beats the sound of rain on the corrugated sheeting roof on a Christmas Day morning – Bliss!

Due to Australia being multi-cultural it is hard to pin point one tradition, one clear thing, that defines an Aussie Christmas other then Summer. Summer is our uniting tradition and most activities, no matter what your belief is, are all about escaping the heat.

Christmas for most Aussies involves cricket on TV, swimming, camping (for some), playing some sort of sport (or watching it), Carols by Candle light, holidays and visiting family. Food wise pretty much everything goes from the traditional roast to bbq’s, seafood to cold meats, pudding to Pavlova and everything in between. Prawns in particular become a rare commodity shortly before Christmas with people buying kilos of the stuff.

My family did not have a lot of traditions but every year we always had to wait till December 1st before we could even voice an opinion about putting up Christmas decorations. December 1st was THE RULE. The one rule you don't test, you don't argue with, you just do it. Shops putting up decorations in October? so what (we do not celebrate Thanksgiving or really Halloween so our shops get in real early). Schools practicing Christmas plays and songs? pfft lame excuse. December 1st, not a moment before, game over.

For us Christmas eve usually meant watching Carols In The Domaine on tv (which still airs every year), then us kids would be allowed to sleep in mum and dads AIR-CONDITIONED bed room (oh joy! this was back in the days when only one room in the house had a/c). Then Christmas day was spent present unwrapping, playing outside and eating. Food was usually cold meats, salads and seafood with fights erupting over the prawns (not from me I couldn't have cared less about prawns; this is probably un-Australian to say but I don’t like prawns). We then would relax around the place nibbling on left over’s and lollies (candy). Unless it was a year we were visiting the family interstate.  Then we spent the days bouncing around from one family members place to another stuffing ourselves with roasts and puddings. And if we were at my cousins place us kids would run feral in the nearby bush.

Bringing this post back to books; Sadly, when it came to Christmas stories, Australia does not really have any real home grown ones. Which I think is a real shame. As a child I can't say this really worried me greatly but now as an adult with a toddler, who is discovering Christmas, I find it frustrating. However we seem to be making up for lost time lately with a push for Australian Christmas stories. 

So I have listed for your please some of my top Aussie Christmas stories for kids.

The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas 
By Heath McKenzie
ISBN: 9781921167317
A hilarious version of the beloved song this involves Australian animals doing funny things. With bright colourful images this is a winner with kiddies.

Applesauce and the Christmas Miracle
Author/Illustrator: Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
ISBN: 9780733322495
Unfortunately summer time in Australia usually equals disaster be it bushfire, flooding or cyclone. This book is set in the Australian bushland during drought and bushfire's. It is the story of Applesauce a little pig who thinks Christmas has been cancelled this year due to disaster. While this sounds a little depressing the story is uplifting and shows dark days eventually end, and the true meaning of Christmas. 

Here is a passage:
"One orange evening, tiger-striped with blackened trees, a pig sat reminiscing. With eyes shut tight, she saw her valley as it had been: a breeze blew and the swing swayed, gently, from a willow bough. But then the raging bushfire had come and licked the earth bare. Applesauce sighed, dawdled up the hill and settled in the dust by the shed, where Joe and Marigold had lived since the fire"

The prose is beautiful and the illustrations lovely.I can see this book becoming a classic and hope it does.

Six White Boomers
By Rolf Harris,illustrated by Bruce Whatley
ISBN: 1865046175
This book is an illustrated version of our beloved Christmas Carol. The song originally written in the 60’s by iconic Rolf Harris is probably our best home grown Christmas Carol. It is a wonderful story of Santa helping a little Joey to find his mum and needing the help of six white kangaroos (boomers) to complete his Australian leg of his journey.

Here is the Christmas Carol sung by Rolf Harris himself (note Rolf is a huge legend in Oz we love him, him and his wobble board).

An Aussie Night Before Christmas
By Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Kilmeny Niland 
I do enjoy this book bar one line which I do not think is appropriate for the target audience of kids."We'd left on the table some tucker and beer." Maybe I am being sensitive? because ironically I know lots of people who do put out beer for Santa on Christmas Eve. Either way I improvise and change beer to drink or cheer (which I know doesn't rhyme or really make sense when using cheer but my toddler doesn't know or care otherwise).  But this is a cute and funny story. If you would like to read the story in full then check out Gumnut Cottage has An Aussie Night Before Christmas.

Aussie Jingle Bells
By Colin Buchanan, illustrated by Nick Bland
Originally written as a Christmas carol back in 1999 this carol has become a firm favourite amongst aussie kids and adults. Most of us can relate to this song and he could be singing about roughly half of our population of Christmas day. It's funny, quirky and what we would call bogan. But you can't help but giggle.  With the help of illustrator/author Nick Bland the beloved carol is now a gorgeous picture book. 

Cyclone Tracy (My Australian Story)
By Alan Tucker
ISBN 1741697298
This is not a picture book and is the story of a boy in Darwin at Christmas time. Right before one of Australia's biggest disasters, Cyclone Tracey, strikes on Christmas Eve. Told through his diary we learn about the before, during and after of Cylcone Tracy. While this isnt a traditional Christmas story this one is about a significant event in Australia's history the devastated a city that took years to rebuild.

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