My family is Muslim. Growing up Christmas meant staying at home watching lots of bad TV. That all changed when my husband decided to make Christmas dinner.
Saman Shad

9 Dec 2019 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 9 Dec 2019 - 1:22 PM

The first Christmas we spent in Australia my Scottish husband decided he wanted a roast turkey with all the trimmings.

I told him it was going to be 35 degrees but he was adamant that he wanted to recreate a little piece of Scotland in his new home.

I patted him on the back and wished him good luck because I certainly wasn’t going to spend hours cooking turkey on a hot summer’s day.

On Christmas day my husband surprised us all with a perfectly cooked turkey, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and a multitude of salads.

We had a Christmas tree up that my kids took great joy in decorating. There was Christmas music playing from the speakers and presents under the tree that apparently Santa had brought. We were now deep into the Christmas spirit. It was an eye-opening experience and one that was very different to the sort of Christmases I usually spent.

My family is Muslim. Growing up, Christmas meant staying at home doing nothing in particular and watching lots of bad TV. While many of my friends were opening presents or travelling to see relatives, we were doing chores. I have no real strong associations with Christmas, neither good or bad. But it was clear to me that for my husband and increasingly my children, Christmas was a big deal and I had to decide if I too wanted to get on board.

The turkey sealed the deal. My husband set his alarm for 5am so he could put the rather large bird in the oven, making sure it would be ready by the time our guests were arriving. The guests on this occasion were my parents, brother and cousins. None of whom had also previously celebrated Christmas. My mum who is always thinking of contingency plans, arrived with a large pot of biryani in case the turkey didn’t work out. But it wasn’t necessary - the turkey was a big hit.

We ate the turkey drizzled with gravy along with the roast potatoes and salad, wearing paper crowns we had popped out of Christmas crackers. I realised that just because we had never celebrated this day before it didn’t mean that we couldn’t start to embrace it, because if nothing else the whole day was enjoyable.

None of us had any expectations – my mum’s back-up biryani in case my husband’s meal was a disaster was testament to that. None of us came with hang-ups from previous bad Christmases either. All this combined to make it a novel experience for everyone.

We have now been celebrating Christmas in Australia with my extended family for a few years.

My husband’s turkey has become the highlight of the day. He has perfected the art of roasting it, meaning he no longer has to wake up at 5am to do all the prep.

For my kids, Christmas has become one of the most exciting times of the year. I often reflect on how lucky they are they get to celebrate this day as well as some of the celebrations I grew up with such as Eid.

I’m just happy I don’t have to spend today wondering what exciting things my friends were getting up to over Christmas. Now I get to experience it for myself, though I doubt many of those celebrating the real Aussie traditional Christmas would be doing it with a turkey, sticking to the easy option of cold meats and salad instead.

But for us the day wouldn’t be complete without the smell of the roast wafting from the oven, even if it means keeping all the windows open to cool our home down.

Saman Shad is the Editor of SBS Voices. You can follow Saman on Twitter  @muminprogress. 

Marry Me, Marry My Family explores cross-cultural weddings in Australia. Watch or stream new episodes weekly Tuesdays 7, 14 and 21 of January, 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.

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