Christmas: summering and mummering in Canada, Australia and New Zealand
Merry Christmas, everyone!
It’s been quite a year for immigration. While the global spotlight was elsewhere, The Economist declared Melbourne the world’s most liveable city. You’ve got to hand it to them: four Australian cities made it into the top 10. Canada also did well, with three in the top 10, and in New Zealand, Auckland made the list at number 9, just ahead of Helsinki. But now, Christmas approaches. If you’re lucky enough to be in Canada, Australia or New Zealand over the holidays, here’s a guide to help you track down the treats in the silly season.
If you think you know what a white Christmas is all about, try Christmas in Canada. Here, you can tell any children in your life that they’re right next door to Santa’s place. Naughty or nice, makes no difference: no country is closer to the North Pole. And that pretty much guarantees that there’ll be plenty of white stuff to go around. And don’t think for a moment that it’s all about snow shoes and eggnog. Well, it can be if you want. But there are also plenty of winter festivals, from Newfoundland’s Snow West to Quebec’s winter carnival, you can go dog sledding by day, partying at night. One of the great Canadian winter experiences is to skate the 7.8 km Rideau Canal, the world’s largest skating rink and the picturesque centrepiece of Ottawa’s Winterlude festival.
And … mummering! It’s a Newfoundland thing and it works like this. Dress up in funny costumes. Make sure you obscure the face, totally, and it’s good to include quite a bit of padding, so you’re really, really hard to identify. Drag is good. Then you go round to your friends’ place, knock on their door, and announce: “Are mummers ‘loud in?” Once you’re ‘’loud in’, things can get a bit loose, as your host is obliged to figure out who you are, while you’re allowed to talk funny, including the use of talking while inhaling (good luck with that), and they’re allowed to prod you to get a feel for your physique. What could possibly go wrong? Then you do a bit of a song and dance number, eat, drink and move on.
Australia and New Zealand
In case you’ve never been to the southern hemisphere, you need to know that Christmas here is a summertime affair. So do summery stuff! Play beach cricket, drink lager, get a tan, wear flip flops (which Kiwis call ‘jandals’ and Aussies, to their shame, call ‘thongs’).
Many households ignore the weather completely, and go for the full midwinter style of Christmas feast: roast turkey, fruit pudding, brandy butter, the works. It’s all good, but consuming calories by the thousand in 40°C can be tough, even for the most seasoned glutton.
As a result, increasing numbers of Australians and New Zealanders are leaving the dining room for the beach, the table for the barbecue, and roast veggies for vibrant salads. New Zealanders and Australians both like to lay claim to the invention of the Pavlova dessert, a fruit smothered meringue named after the famous Russian ballerina, and it’s a never ending smash hit in both countries, whatever the weather, especially at Christmas.
The antipodes also have a range of local Christmas trees. In Australia, the colloquially named Christmas bush, tree fern and Christmas bells all have stunning, natural Christmassy appearances. And in New Zealand, the pohutukawa has frosty white new growth and a vibrant red bloom coming right on cue in December. The fact that its natural habitat is the beach doesn’t hurt, and kids love climbing them. Just remember it’s a tree, and it’s protected, so don’t try and uproot it for your sitting room: not going to happen.
If you’re in Sydney, the big news on Boxing Day is the start of the Sydney Hobart yacht race, where hundreds of yachts big and small, new and old, take to the sea in a cloud of colour. Both countries have a thriving summer music festival scene, with the St Jerome Laneway festival in all Australian states and Auckland, plus a host of local one, two and three day festivals in both countries.
So, whether you’re summering in the antipodes or mummering in Newfoundland, the new worlds of Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have distinct ways of making the festive season their own. Look closely, and you’ll find it’s the perfect opportunity to get a strong dose of local culture in its purest form.
Merry Christmas everyone, from the team at WorkingIn.
Or, as they say in:
Inuit: Quvianagli Anaiyyuniqpaliqsi!
Maori: Meri kirihimete!
Bondi beach: On yer mate