LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: Call me cheesy but I was really hoping to see a white Christmas this year. It’s not that Bing Crosby is my American Idol but like any greenhorn expat from a warm country, having it snow is just special. Things were looking good on the weather front for a while but it just didn’t work out. Some brief snow dropped in, two days beforehand but had all melted well before Yuletide began. Then, blow me down, if it doesn’t start snowing properly on Boxing Day. Close but no cigar! Looks like my fortunes at getting a White Christmas will fall into the same box as my Melbourne Cup selections. You know; the one labelled ‘Fat Chance’.
Despite the lack of meterological endowment, we had a fabulous Christmas. It started with an early pre-Christmas gift for me: my first guest post on the Mummigrant’s expat blog, an unexpected but wonderful boon. As mentioned in my post , we had planned a traditional Australian Christmas lunch. We stick to this agenda as expats because it just makes Christmas a bit more enjoyable, to indulge in things you would have done at home, if you were with your family instead of being abroad.
On Christmas Day itself, the celebrations were outstanding, helped in no small way by being able to share the day with some American ring-ins from next door (our British expat neighbours). To my surprise, they arrived not only carting their usual generous armload of gifts but they also brought ‘Christmas Crackers’ (or bon-bons as we call them in my Aussie family), a rare and special treat indeed, costing the price of a small house deposit but of immeasurable worth to us.
Christmas crackers, for those who are not familiar, are traditional fare for both Brits and Australians. The ‘cracker’ or ‘bonbon’ is a thin cardboard tube, wrapped in brightly coloured festive wrapping. It has two open ends which have a little paper trigger at each end. The cracker is shared with someone else by each person pulling the trigger, which then rips the tube open with a little bang (hence the name Cracker). Inside the tube are three key items:
- a thin and easily broken paper crown (brightly coloured)
- a pathetically corny joke or riddle
- a miniature toy ( and I mean miniature)
The most important item is the paper crown. Ritual demands that everyone dons one of these ‘attractive’ items for the duration of the Christmas feast, no matter how under the weather you are. As soon as the crown is in place, the sharing of the jokes then takes place. Needless to say, the Cracker jokes are pretty thin but the point is that, they somehow seem funny, when you are sharing them with family and friends, and wearing a ridiculous hat.
Back home, I had always taken this treat for granted. But here, thanks to the generosity of our lovely British friends, this ‘extra present’ just helped make the day truly feel like Christmas at home. We were thrilled to be able to share in this familiar tradition which is inexplicable to others but special to us.
After a brief sharing of the toys, we moved on to the feast. For once, I seemed to manage getting the Roast Lamb, the home-made gravy, the Pavlova dessert and the Mars bar slice, all just right. With the Brits’ magnificent trifle, and wine aplenty, together we hoed through a mountain of superb food, stopping only for our Christmas Crackers.
Of course, I’ve gained a kilo or two since Christmas. What can you expect when you’ve just eaten the equivalent of 7000 calories? Ah… at least there’s a special on Liposuction this week on Groupon. Oh the benefits of living in Jersey!