You’re unlikely to forget Xmas in Oz. Firstly there’s the weather – it’s bikinis and boardshorts not mufflers and mittens. And the beach – make sure you get lots of photos to put in the ‘brag bank’. Then there’s the food – down here it’s the BBQ (see box on next page) that’s fired-up, rather than your dad’s backside after too many brussel sprouts. Arguably the biggest difference is the spontaneity of it all. When have you ever had the opportunity to create your own Christmas Day? Gone is the pressure to complete the Amazing Race and visit every family member within a 20 mile radius in under 10 hours. There’ll be no drunken old relatives to thank for their lame presents: “Thanks Nan, I really wanted a set of grey tea towels – again”. Oh no, when it comes to Xmas in Oz, you make the rules. If you don’t believe us, try answering these questions: 1. I’m hung over, my mouth feels like I’ve sucked up the entire contents of a budgie’s cage, and it’s only 9am. Do I really have to get up now, get dressed, go downstairs and open my presents? 2. I can only afford to buy my mate a novelty cooking apron (you know, with the fake boobs attached). Will he give a shit? 3. I’m thinking of venturing out to visit my friends. Do I have to spend the next 30 minutes scraping the ice from the window of my car with an empty cassette tape? (Incidentally, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” does the best job). 4. Do I have to listen to old Queenie giving it the large? 5. Will I miss my nan’s false teeth moving around in her mouth when she kisses me under the mistletoe? For your sake, we hope the answer to those questions is a resounding “no”. Sure, you’re going to miss the good folk at home, but with TNT’s Guide to Christmas Down Under, there’ll be plenty for you to talk about come Boxing Day. First up…
Bottle shops DO NOT OPEN on Christmas Day, so unless you want to spend the day sucking the dregs from ashtrays, do your shopping beforehand. Go with some mates to grab a few slabs and some delectable cask wine. When it comes to purchasing ice to cool your booze, get as much as you can carry from the supermarket beforehand. Last year, TNT thought we could just pop down on the day. But spending a few choice hours at various petrol stations while everyone else was getting on it reminded us of the benefits of planning. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Remember to observe the local laws when you’re partying, particularly when taking booze down to the beach. For example, Bondi Council will be enforcing alcohol-free zones on Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama beaches over the festive period. Spending Christmas in the slammer wouldn’t be much fun. So if you want to drink, do so in a licensed venue. It’s also a good idea to be careful in the sea. The busiest people in Australia on Christmas Day are the surf lifesavers who patrol the beaches. They spend the whole day pulling out inexperienced – and pissed – swimmers who get caught in the waves or rips. Always swim between the red and yellow flags and raise your hand if you get in trouble. We’re not gonna do the whole ‘mum thing’, but try to at least be careful after the 50th beer. Plus, don’t forget to ‘Slip, slop, slap and wrap’.
We know you’re strapped for cash, and so do your mates. But a little gift can go a long way – it’s the thought that counts after all. So we’ve compiled a list of the most thrifty yet useful gifts… 1. AA batteries 2. Playing cards 3. Santa hat 4. International phone card 5. Lottery ticket 6. Travel Scrabble 7. Sunscreen 8. 2007 organiser (even cheaper) 9. Stubby coolers 10. Box of Oz’s finest goon
E.T. says Phone Home
You’ve probably figured out that the cheapest way to call home is by using an international phone card. The best time to call home is in the morning (Oz time), when it’s still Christmas Eve in the UK. This way you can boast about the weather and not sound like a drunken tramp – until they ring back 12 hours later at least. You’ll also find most phone cards won’t work the later you call, due to everyone else jamming the network. Plus, remember to phone the number for the nearest city (the generic number is usually more expensive).
Leading up to the Big Day, many Aussies go cock-a-hoop for outdoor carol services – especially Carols by Candlelight, held in all the capital cities. On Jesus’s alleged birthday, rather than charades and snoring in front of the telly, it’s backyard cricket, splashing about in the pool and beach bowls. The traditional Anglo-Saxon turkey roast is being slowly replaced by barbecues, seafoods, salads and cold meats. But of course, there’s lorry loads of beer involved. Christmas Day tends to be more of a family celebration, and Boxing Day is often the time for friends to celebrate together.
Missing that Northern Hemisphere Xmas? Simple: go to Blockbusters and rent out Last of the Summer Wine; go to the nearest bottle-o and climb inside the freezer; then find an aged street dweller to play charades with until they wet themselves. Merry Christmas all!
Another shrimp on the barbie?
To get the authentic Christmas Down Under experience the BBQ is a must. A 10lb turkey with spuds doesn’t fit on the grill too good, so Aussies throw tradition to the wind and cook up burgers, ‘snags’ (sausages) and seafood instead (plus some salad for the sheilas, mate!). Do your shopping a few days before, or you’ll be queueing for hours on 24 December. The same goes for using the free BBQs at most beaches – get there early. And when it’s actually cooking time, like back home, for some inexplicable reason it’s mandatory that the guys take charge. Mockney accent optional. 1. At public BBQs, put down foil with a bit of oil on top of the cooking surface – it can get scummy if others haven’t cleaned up properly. 2. Sausages. Make sure you pierce the snags so they don’t split. Cracked pepper on a steak helps bring out the flavour. 3. Get some stir-fry strips of chicken, a couple of spoons of margarine and some BBQ, Thai, or Creole seasoning. Mix it all up, chuck ’em on the heat for about 15 minutes and you’ll have some tasty chicken. 4. Garlic prawns are king – get oil, butter and crushed garlic, then let the prawns soak in the mixture for 5-10 minutes, before putting them onto the heat. Pour on left-over sauce as they cook. 5. Dessert. Not an Aussie delicacy as such, but the perfick ending. Take a banana, split down the middle and squash in a smattering of chocolate. Wrap in silver foil and place on the edge of the hot plate for about five mins. The ‘nana goes all mushy and the choccy melts. Heaven. If it’s all too complicated, simply befriend some nearby Aussies. They’re a friendly bunch and shouldn’t mind you crashing their party in the season of goodwill. (Perhaps leave your England rugby shirt at the hostel though.)