When December arrives, the inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere, unlike us who warm up in comfortable winter jackets, wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Christmas below the Equator is very different from ours – but how? Here is what we like best about this strange period of the Southern Hemisphere
“It’s Christmas where rubber trees grow, there’s no ice and there’s no snow” – says a famous Christmas song – and it could not be truer than that! If you are lucky enough to spend your Christmas holidays in Australia, then you should pack extra sunscreen and keep yourself prepared for salads, fish and sports. Although it is unusual to eat a hot meal, you will certainly not be hungry. Australians tend to indulge in trays of seafood, fish, ham, turkey, pavlova and, of course, a glass of iced bubbles. The garden and the pool are important parts of Christmas Day: the children will want to jump into the water to try the new games they have received and the whole family will want to enjoy a game of cricket. (Let’s not forget about the beach;
New Zealanders, like Australians, are lucky enough to celebrate Christmas outdoors. Children have much longer summer breaks during the Christmas season and this means that families can go hiking; explore the coves located outside and within maritime cities such as Auckland; camp; and, of course, head to one of the southern hemisphere’s favorite destinations: the beach. As for clothing and food, do not forget to bring your flip-flops and leave room in your stomach for a long lunch of seafood and fish on December 25th. Even though pine trees decorate their houses, the New Zealanders have their “Christmas tree”: the Pōhutukawa, a local tree where wonderful flowers bloom like Christmas balls during the holidays.
The Christmas “dinner” is actually more a lunch, made of Christmas cakes and smoked ham in jelly, or turkey, or roasted duck on the barbecue. You could also taste yellow rice with raisins, ice cream cakes and mallow pudding. All these delicacies can be enjoyed outdoors during a hot day or around Cape Town.
As in the rest of the world, South Americans exchange gifts, prepare Christmas trees and gather together with friends and families. The Christmas tree bought at the supermarket is often accompanied by a crib and it is quite common to participate in Misa del Gallo at midnight (“The Mass of the Rooster” refers to the song of a rooster that happened during Christmas). Some employers give their employees a Christmas basket containing rice, sugar, biscuits and flour. Perhaps, the biggest difference with the countries of the Northern Hemisphere that speak English or Spanish, is that the South Americans celebrate December 24 and often exchange presents and continue to celebrate until 6 January, the day of the Epiphany.
On Christmas Eve, families and friends gather around the table with traditional European dishes such as turkey and ham, alongside more local foods. The Bolivians have the picana (a spicy soup with chicken, beef and corn), while the Venezuelans eat the hallacas (corn dough stuffed with meat and covered in a banana leaf), pan de jamón (bread stuffed with ham and raisins) and dulce de lechoza (a sweet made of papaya and cane sugar). The lechón could be served all over the continent (suckling pig) or the family could gather around a barbecue of asado meat. A Brazilian Christmas dinner would not be complete without the crunchy baccala balls; farofa (fried cassava flour with crispy bacon); Rabadanas (resemble French toast, but they are made with sugar and spicy port instead of maple syrup); walnuts and tropical fruit.
Of course, the snow, the ice and the roasted chestnuts make the atmosphere very picturesque, but do not ignore what is happening below the equator! Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is fun, outdoor celebrations, rich in ethnic dishes, sunshine and fun. You should try it one day!