welcome to emmas housethought

a very aussie christmas

You can take your snow and pretty lights, your Glühwein and hot puddings and you can stick it. Really, I’ve tried your northern hemisphere christmas and I’m not convinced.

Australian Christmas rules.


After all, it is an insufferable season wherever you are. Obscene commercialism, nonsensical symbolism and forced frivolity all wrapped up in the vapid myth of a little baby jesus who apparently brings a little hope, peace and love – except that the location for his story is one of the sorriest and hateful places on the planet.

So if you’ve gotta do this Christmas thing, let it at least be sunny.

In Sydney, Christmas starts on December 1, the first day of summer, or whenever the temperature reaches 28 degrees and the sun beats down so hard that you have to wear a hat or otherwise your nose will melt off your face.

paul polly

At this early part of The Silly Season (as it is known in scientific circles) all the folk start lighting up their barbeques, rush the bottle shop for cases of beer and invite the mates around. Office Christmas parties also erupt in a frenzy of regretful boozing and wearing of embarrassing hats. Suddenly it’s ok to wear thongs (flip flops, dear, the undies are called g-strings), shorts and dirty little dresses to the office because it’s too bloody hot and too bloody busy and no one could give a stuff anyway because of the way the boss behaved at the aforementioned firm’s function.

Around this time beer and wine sales are reported as a news item. Sales go particularly ballistic sparkling wine/champagne sector. You will not attend any gathering between December and January without the frothy gear unless it’s an AA meeting.


And there’s no better cure for a hangover than blobbing on the beach and splashing in the sea. While average air temperatures are around 25, which for us is a bit average, the sea makes its way from 17 (bit chilly) to 21 or 22 (lovely). In Sydney the water never gets too warm, unlike Northern Queensland where it’s nothing more than a warm bath seething with lethal marine life. No, not here. At the right beaches in Sydney there are dolphins, a penguin or two, and whales within sight from shore, not forgetting swimming labradors and  kelpies on longboards. Get yourself a snorkel and you can visit the blue gropers and a million other smaller fish in the optimum visibility that is Sydney’s coastline.

prawns turkey

Christmas proper starts with the friends’ backyard lunch, a convivial and culinary affair where the French champagne and the freshly shucked oysters are a irrefutable sign that everything is right in the universe. Kiddlies frolic in fancy dress and someone always passes out.


Next we have the family festivities. My family is enormous and despite 40 years of experience I can never seem to stay out of the mayhem of it (unless I’m 10 thousand miles away, that is). It always takes 20 emails, a few squabbles, a bit of hassle and a day or two of cooking. And then the day itself, which can only be approached with a glass of champagne and a valium.  Anyway, this year was a bit special. It’s the first time the family have been all together for 6 years and it was a very cheerful and relaxing day. Of course, it was outside. Kids went swimming in the lake. It was hot. We had to wear hats.


If there is a traditional Australian Christmas menu (and in my experience the tradition is to be non-traditional) it goes something like this. Prawns. Tiger Prawns. More prawns. Oysters; mangoes; cold ham & turkey; salads; green, asian and italian. Avocados. Fish. Beer. Champagne. Prawns.

Oh, and in my family we always have a home-made, hand-made ice cream, of multiple flavours.


On Christmas day itself a few family leftovers came over to our place. We had oysters: sydney rock and boffin bay. Sashimi; salmon and kingfish. Garlic prawns. Turkey leftovers. Rocket, bocconcini and grape tomatoes. Pavlova, passionfruit. And there was a bolo de bolacha but we were too stuffed by then. It was raining; we played Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit. The sun came out; we went to the beach. Gloat. 🙂



  1. Ailsa December 28, 2012 12:29 pm Reply

    Great Emma nothing like a colour bond fence and washing on the line you sure know where you are, love Aussie Christmas, Italians over the back fence Indians on one side and Germans on the other and Chinese Across the road love it, it was never like this in Portugal!!! Happy New Year

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 28th, 2012 at 1:51 pm


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  2. Julia Gillard December 28, 2012 2:23 pm Reply

    However this year it rained all day Xmas and Boxing day. The temperature dropped to 20 C on Xmas day and Boxing day. Did you use photo shop for your photos ? if taken in Sydney…

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 29th, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Now Julia! You Canberrans are such party poopers! I concede that the 25th was crap, but we were at the beach on Boxing Day until the boats went past and The One got sunburnt.

    [Reply to comment]

  3. Colin December 28, 2012 10:18 pm Reply

    Can I presume you are in the red top and blue pants?
    Some of the rather grumpy looking people remind me of similar Xmas lunch/dinners in South Africa – until the booze kicked in.
    Prawns look great but what is that overcooked stuffed meat with the asparagus and roast potato?
    Would suggest some of Luke Nguyen’s recipes be introduced to the menu.
    Look forward to the barbie etc on New Year?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 29th, 2012 at 11:51 am

    suppose I can’t knock all the grumpy comments, but no, colin, not me, people not grumpy just hungry, rolled & stuffed turkey delicious actually and a green papaya salad was on the table on xmas day.

    [Reply to comment]

  4. eric December 29, 2012 12:08 am Reply

    i could perhaps be forgiven to be getting a smidgen of an impression that the return to Portugal is very low on the list of priorities now Emma.
    hey whatever…………. we still get to read your “spot-on” comments

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  5. Vern December 29, 2012 11:44 am Reply

    I always think Australia is on the wrong side of the equator. I was born in the northern hemisphere and every Xmas I really miss the snow and biting winds of a real Winter.
    To wake up with the snow beating down is a real delight and a walk through the thick fog wrapped up in a camel overcoat is what I miss. I love the slipping and sliding on icy paths and playing snowballs.
    I love the sipping of piping hot soup, baked potatoes that burn your lips and roast goose streaming with fat as it melts in my mouth.
    As a child I built snowmen and thought that was the real world.
    I can honestly say I never get used to Xmas in Summer and hate it. Summer should be in June.

    [Reply to comment]

  6. Helder December 29, 2012 4:55 pm Reply

    Nice, now I got curious about Christmas in Australia.
    Have to go there and check it, one day!

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  7. Johanna Bradley January 3, 2013 6:08 am Reply

    Wherever you spend it, hope your New Year is happy, Emma.

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  8. Arthur E Grice January 15, 2013 9:37 am Reply

    Christmas in Australia is not Christmas at all. for some its a great reason for family and friends to get together which is great,, but on the other side its an excuse to get together and drink yourself stupid, pretend its Christmas by throwing in a plastic tree and a few paper hats and if you do venture outside you have to drown yourself in aussiemozzie perfume ( mortein ) And all that mumbo jumbo about gastronomic delights is rubbish,most of the which is unaffordable or from Vietnam. Food in Australia is getting better but the so called quality is by and large fictitious rubbish ,wooden tomatoes and tasteless potatoes and unless you live near a fish market fresh fish is as rare as a green cabbage….

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  9. Alena January 11, 2014 4:12 pm Reply

    I’ve enjoyed your blog so much but I’m disappointed that you don’t feel any spiritual connection to Christmas. It takes personal experience with the Savior and it can be real with anyone. I hope you seek it one day. It’s the greatest experience in life and it’s what we’re created for. You will never know the amazing joy and peace without it.

    Thanks for all you share here. It’s so inspiring and helpful. Best wishes always!

    [Reply to comment]

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