Before I go to the first country of the “Christmas Around The World,” lets look at who “Santa Claus” really is and how he became one of the most beloved legendary men in the world. How did the kindly Christian saint, good Bishop Nicholas, become a roly-poly red-suited American symbol for merry holiday festivity and commercial activity? History tells us the tale: The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born in the third century in the village of Patara . When the area was born Greek but is now located in southern Turkey. His parents were wealthy and raised him as a devout Christian. They died in an epidemic when Nicholas was young. Obeying Jesus 'words,' sell everything you have and give to the poor, "Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and became Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known around town for his generosity to the poor, his love for children and his concern for sailors and their boats.
My belief is Santa Claus is not about a belief in a person who flies around the world one night in a magic sleigh. My faith in Santa Claus is a belief that in a world where people continue to struggle and die from the lack of basic necessities; with countries torn by war, neighborhoods by violence, by abuse, in the midst of greed, the poor, with people divided one from another based on gender, race, nationality, sexuality, animal abuse, and religion; that with all the horrible things people do to each other, it is possible to be generous, kind, jolly, warm, welcoming, and show compassion. Santa Claus reminds us that it’s better to give than to receive, to care for others, to share what we have. Santa Claus reminds us that there is nothing more important than to bringing joy and happiness into the world. Just like Santa Claus, we have the ability to be generous each and every day of our lives. Yes, we can all start at Christmas. But the lesson of Santa Claus is to be generous and kind throughout the year.
“Australia.” Christmas in Australia and New Zealand comes in the middle of their summer - no white Christmas for them! Most of the time it is blue skies, bright sunshine and temperatures in the eighties and above.
The first official Australian Christmas was celebrated on December 25, 1788 at Sydney Cove. Preparation for Christmas starts in early December when decorations are put up, including door wreaths, artificial trees, and nativity scenes. Christmas cards with designs similar to those found in the UK and US (holly, snow scenes, Dickens Christmas scenes, etc) are sent out to family and friends. In many homes, Christmas cakes and puddings will be baked ready to eat on Christmas Day. In the cities and towns, many shopping centers and stores have their own 'Santa' for children to meet. Because it is so warm at this time, flowers tend to be the main form of decoration, particularly the native Christmas Bush (a plant which has little red flowered leaves) and Christmas Bell. However, some people do have a real tree with lights and decorations, which are put up just before Christmas Eve.
Christmas carols are played throughout the country; traditional songs such as “Little Town of Bethlehem” as well as typically Aussie songs such as “Six White Boomers,“ “The North Wind” and “The Carol of the Birds,“ Bing Crosby's “White Christmas” is also popular down under!
“Carols by Candlelight” is a tradition which started in 1937. It is held every year on Christmas Eve at the Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne when thousands of people gather to sing their favorite Christmas songs, lighting up the night sky with candles. This is now broadcast throughout the world. In the days before Christmas there are many professional and amateur productions of Handel's “Messiah” performed throughout country. One version in particular is that presented by Radio Community Chest in Sydney Town Hall; a tradition that has taken place for over 50 years, with proceeds going to those in need. A choir of over 500 is drawn from churches throughout Sydney. Many people will attend the midnight service on Christmas Eve. Before they go to bed, children leave out a glass of milk or coke for Santa and some carrots for his reindeer.
One holiday dish that is completely Australian is the “Christmas Damper.” A Damper is a scone-like bread that could be made with simple ingredients by those traveling the vast expanses of Australia. This bread is known as "damper", perhaps because the fire was "damped" down to a moderate heat for this particular purpose. The holiday version is a remembrance of tough times on the continent. A Christmas, damper is made into a wreath shape and decorated in Christmas motifs. It can also be shaped into a star or wreath and served with butter jam or honey, It is not universally served, though, because of the heat of baking. Bakeries will provide it if you want.
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup of butter chilled and cut into cubes
1/2-3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
Preheat oven to 350° F. Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into a container and then add the butter, add 1/2 enough water to make a manageable dough. If your damper mix is still too dry, slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, using just as much as needed to form a dough. Shape into a flat ball or a wreath shape and place on a greased and floured tray, score the top of your damper(s) with a sharp knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes till it is browned. They say you can tell if it is done, by knocking on the bread and if it sounds hallow then it is done. Serve warm or hot...with butter, golden syrup or jam. Enjoy…
**Make sure you return tomorrow for another country (Day 2) and another fabulous recipe…
Till Next Time………………………….
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