Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Those Places Thursday - Sharing Memories - Childhood Christmas in the Outback of NSW

Our Aussie Christmas Tree
Recently I received an email from a friend in England in which she commented. "I  guess you are going to have one of those funny Australian Christmases”.  This made me smile, as Australians love to celebrate Christmas.  It is one of the most important family events of the year and our traditions are a carry-over from our ancestry.  

Quite often  families embrace the customs of their grandparents with the traditional meal of roast meats, baked vegetables, gravy and of course the Christmas pudding with steaming hot custard. We do however give the meal an Australian flavour by including lots of seafood, salads, tropical fruits such as mangoes, lychee's and of course a bowl of cherries.  Christmas is the traditional start to our cherry season and is often equated as the “Christmas fruit”.  There is nothing better than  seeing the littlies  with big red stains around their mouths from munching on the cherries in the Christmas fruit bowl!
However, mainly as a result of our climate,  an Australian Christmas is quite different to that experienced by my friend in England, so I thought I would share as part of my Sharing Memories Posts a couple of Christmas stories from my childhood.

As mentioned in previous blogs, my early childhood was spent in the far west of New South Wales, where we lived on the sheep station, Nuntherungie. As with most families, Christmas meant time spend sharing food, drink and adventures with our extended family. This time with family often meant a lot of travel, as my father’s family lived on the South Coast of New South Wales, over 800 miles (about 1,200  kms) away. My mother’s family were much closer, only 120 miles (190 kms) away in Broken Hill.

When I was quite young my father’s family, decided they would make the venture from the seaside village of Milton on the South Coast of NSW to Nuntherungie to celebrate Christmas in our home.  Unfortunately, the hot weather came early that year, with temperatures reaching the high 30’s.  Quite a shock to all the family members who were used to living in the lush coastal region, close to the beach!

House and  with Sleep- out (RH corner)
Our home had glass louvered windows all the way around to allow as much breeze through the house as possible and  away from the main house was a” sleep out” which my parents would sleep in in the summer months.  This was a separate room built away from the house with windows all the way around to help keep the room cooler in the summer.  However, not everyone could fit into the sleep-out, so all and sundry elected to sleep outdoors under the stars, in the hope of catching the smallest of breeze.  The large square of buffalo grass, that made up our “lawn” was covered in a conglomeration of pillows, mattresses, sheets and sleeping bodies. 

On one corner of the lawn was our version of a Christmas tree.  There are no neat symmetrical pine trees to be found in the outback, so our Christmas tree consisted of a branch of a dead gum tree, sawn off and painted with silver paint and then decorated with home-made streamers and balloons.  Yes, a different Christmas tree!! However, Santa always managed to find our tree, and leave a collection of large lumpy parcels wrapped in bright Christmas paper.

Christmas Day soon arrived, and the sleepy visitors stirred, cups of sweet black tea were passed around as everyone stretched and yawned, finding a spot on the grass amongst the scattered bed clothing from the previous night.  The children, pushing for a spot closest to the tree, waiting for my Dad, as elected Santa’s helper, to pick up each parcel from under out tree, read the tag and passed on to the excited recipients.

Ohhs! And Aah!s came from all corners of the grass, as everyone opened their parcels, squeals of delight from the children at new toys, and sweets, and the tangled mess of bedding was now joined by discarded Christmas paper and ribbon.  What a Christmas morning, and I love the slides that my father took of this day, about fifty five years ago.

The mess cleaned up, the children acquainted themselves with their new toys, while the adults moved into the kitchen to being the preparation for the big family Christmas meal.


  1. A delightful post, Diane. Enjoyed reading of your outback Christmas.

  2. Thanks!! hope you have a good christmas