It has taken over 200 years for we Aussies to start shifting away from a European style Christmas, with its heavy roast dinners and plum puddings. Mind you, there was a push for something more suitable leading up to Federation, when our national spirit was on the rise. In the late 19th century bush picnics were popular;
Australian flora was very much appreciated around this period. From the Sydney Morning Herald 1911;
I confess I am still prone to buying cards with English robins perched on snowy letterboxes, but an Australian Christmas tree does stir my imagination. Below is a miniature one I created from a banksia serrata bloom and a mountain devil ‘star’.
You can buy banksia seed ornaments these days. I bought this one at Leura, in the beautiful Blue Mountains.
Banksia Bell ornament
Bottle Brush doesn’t need any embellishment at all. Christmas entirely by Mother Nature;
Now I must tell you about an ancient Australian plant called Lycopodium, once grazed upon by dinosaurs. It’s like a miniature pine tree and produces its own ‘candles’. If you want to know more about this amazing plant, click HERE
Here is one I prettied up with fuchsia, native correa bells and grevillea. Lycopodiums grow in a special area of my garden in the Blue Mountains village of Blackheath.
Of course when the lycopodium’s candles appear there is little need for much more decoration. We have this one outside our front door.
HARD TO GO PAST A GUM!
On one occasion during my Tasmanian childhood my father brought home a sapling gum instead of the usual pine bough. We all loved it, especially my mother, who didn’t have to deal with falling pine needles.
A newspaper editorial in 1902 discussed the question of an Australian Christmas tree, concluding;
I would choose the sapling Gum. For it is the emblem of our bush Christmas and where it has pride of place there is more of the true spirit of Yule, less of the spirit of possession.
Let England, old Europe and America have their pines. The Christmas Gum has a nostalgic fragrance that does more things to one’s heart than the sum-total beauty of all the others.
My house is called The Gums, so I’m inclined to agree with the author.
Sydney’s historic Strand Arcade features gum leaves and nuts in their Christmas decorations. Don’t they look delightful?
Real gumnuts make sweet ornaments too; just the ight size and not too heavy. We have author/illustrator May Gibbs to thank for embedding them in our consciousness;
Of course there must be a gumnut angel for the top of an Aussie tree. Admittedly the one below left has an acorn head and hat, but never mind. I love the kooka’s gumnut wine glass in the picture at right , too
In my Blue Mountains Garden I’m training these king parrots to pose in a gum tree, but clearly I need a few more for the full effect.
This year I was amazed to see Australian flora featured on Sydney’s Martin Place Christmas tree. There are waratahs, kangaroo paws, grevilleas, flannel flowers, correas, banksias, Christmas bells, etc, etc. Just beautiful. But I can’t help wondering if people even notice as they hurry by, or pause to take a quick selfie? I really hope they do.
It’s worth remembering that the Christmas tree in Martin Place is a relatively recent tradition, dating from 1971. It was impossible before the area became a pedestrian only zone. In earlier years the city’s tree was erected in Hyde Park.
Our national flower is the golden wattle (acacia). The spring blossom is pretty on greeting cards, but perhaps other acacias are more appropriate as Christmas trees. A male king parrot feasting on the silver seed pods of Acacia covenyi is very festive in my opinion. The pods are at their peak in December.
I will end with a tribute to our very own, prehistoric Wollemi pine, discovered growing deep in the National Park in 1994. Many people now have one growing, and decorate it at Christmas. It’s hard to get more Australian than that.