• In a country where many are in cross-cultural relationships, Christmas is a diverse occasion. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Bringing two cultures together at the Christmas banquet must surely be one of the highlights of our multicultural nation, writes Dilvin Yasa.
Dilvin Yasa

14 Dec 2020 - 10:21 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2020 - 10:21 AM

It was the three string beans and two potatoes placed delicately on my plate as a second helping that indicated that my Christmas lunches were about to get interesting. Up until then, Christmas at my parents' has always been a 24-hour eating frenzy, with mountains of food, plenty of leftovers and much moaning and groaning that we'd eaten too much.

My first Christmas with my English in-laws, however, heralded a new chapter in my life: one where a traditional lunch was carefully measured. With barely any leftovers, anyone still hungry (me) would just have to go to the pub in the hope that a pie of sorts could be found.

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Over the years, my husband and I have learned to compromise on what makes the perfect Christmas lunch, and we are far from alone.

In a country where many partners with those from different cultural heritages, similar understandings are achieved. Here are two of their stories.

A traditional Christmas spread was a big deal in Kylie Travers' home, but this changed when partner Justin came into her life.

"I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints so Christmas Day was a huge event at our house. My parents have the biggest tree you'll ever see, and although we have a big family (I'm one of nine kids), my stepmother invites everyone to enjoy the occasion with us so she'll often be catering for anywhere between 60 to 120 people. On the table? Roast pork and lamb with all the trimmings, right down to homemade horseshoe biscuits and rum balls.

Justin and I have been together for two years and right away it was clear his take on Christmas was different to mine. He's from Vanuatu where Christmas isn't as big culturally as it is here. For him, it was all about exchanging a few presents and enjoying fresh foods and family time down on the beach.

Kylie Travers and her family in Vanuatu.

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Our first Christmas was spent apart so there wasn't an issue, but last year was a real eye-opener for everyone. I started doing the usual, 'We have to get this and cook this and do this,' and he was like, 'Well, I don't really do this but I'm happy to try new things'.

We ended up having many conversations about what we could take from each culture to make the day our own. He roasted a chicken and vegetables  dishes he'd seen on TV and wanted to try  and as it turns out, he's a natural.

"We ended up having many conversations about what we could take from each culture to make the day our own."

We've now decided that for breakfast we'll do what my girls and I have always traditionally done, with pancakes, eggs, bacon and a fruit platter. For lunch, he'll do tuluk, which is dough with shredded meat wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground. He'll serve it with coconuts, tropical fruits, salad and rice. For Christmas dinner, Justin will cook a special meal for us with roast beef (Vanuatu is big on beef), roast vegetables, salad and more tropical fruits.

Incorporating our two cultures into our Christmas menu has been a journey, but it's a beautiful one in which to be a part. What better to reflect the multiculturalism of our country than at our tables?"

Al Hansen enjoys a traditional Danish Christmas each year, but always saves room for her husband's traditional English lunch the following day.

"I grew up in Denmark so although I moved to Australia well over a decade ago, my Christmas traditions remain strictly Danish. Back home, the tree didn't go up until 23 December and as a kid, you could only see it ready and lit with candlelights the next day. That's also the day of our Christmas and we celebrate with roast duck, goose or pork with sides of caramelised potatoes, red cabbage  pickled and served hot  and gravy. For dessert, it's an almond rice pudding with whipped cream and chopped almonds, and served with cherry sauce.

We play games, sing as we dance around the tree and have a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the company of our family and friends. It's not really an environment where you drink heavily; it's all about the children.

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When I met my husband Stuart, I knew his Christmas lunches would be different to mine, but for a few years, we didn't really notice the difference as he was always celebrating the occasion with his family in England anyway. It's only after we moved to Australia that we realised we had to take a look at how we were going to combine our two cultures on the day, but to be honest, since we celebrate on two different days, it hasn’t been difficult at all. 

In the lead up to Christmas, I like to send those invited to our Danish Christmas the lyrics of Danish songs so they can learn them and we can sing together around the tree on 24 December.

This year, I've invited several close friends and I'm actually going to cook roast pork, which should be interesting since I never cook. I'm telling them to have a snack beforehand in case it all goes belly up. On 25 December, we'll do a traditional Christmas lunch as Australians would understand it, with seafood, roast turkey and plenty of alcohol with our English mates.

It's just a really fun way to keep the celebrations rolling."

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