Christmas is always a time for family. However, getting to mine was gonna be a financial disaster, so instead, I substituted my Parrots in Paradise family. Considering last year was spent walking around one of the worst genocides in modern human history, it couldn’t be anything but a step up.
On Christmas Eve, my hosts planned to take the volunteers out to see the Christmas lights in the local area. Every year, houses can sign up to compete in a competition, and its fairly common for families to go out and see the main contenders. However, the 2 other volunteers currently here decided they’d rather climb Mt. Ngungun and watch the sunset…so it ended up being just me, the hosts, and 3 of the birds (who adore pretty shiny lights). Since it was a tiny group, my hosts decided to fork out for fish and chips too – which meant I got a traditional Scottish Christmas Eve meal completely by accident! (nobody ever cooks on the eve, its always takeaway)
Several houses compete every year, but only a few ever really seem to have a chance. We drove around a few of them, but only stopped at the really impressive ones. First up was a neon glow of Australian decorations.
We had kangaroos pulling santa’s sleigh, traditional trees bedecked in lights, and even a romantic laser light show. Not a bad start, but my hosts warned it could get a lot better.
Second up was a house that actually let you walk through the garden, and had decorated the outside area and the porch by his house (bedecked in small Australian Christmas decorations, including a lego trainset and a santa hat wearing kookaburra ornament. The garden was fairly chaotic in its design, but really liked the light up presents under the tree he had.
Afterwards, we headed to a road that had 3 houses which always went overboard. This year it appeared only one had really pulled out all the stops though, complete with train set, music, Home Simpson as Santa Claus and a Rudolph CGI movie playing on the garage.
I really liked this one, if just for how much was going on around it. My host also got quite a lot of attention due to the very fascinated (though getting very sleep) birds on her shoulder.
The final stop was very close to home, and normally done first by my hosts. Its the most interactive, with the family moving a puppet Santa and several voice/movement activated ornaments bedecking the deck. Apparently the woman who owns the house checks the local recycling centre every January for any spare lights/ornaments etc, and just adds to her collection with whatever she finds. We got there a little late but still managed to see most of it in action, including a manger scene and a spray of fake falling snow!
For Christmas day, it started out as any other, sweeping and feeding the birds. But for the Christmas period, we have reduced hours, allowing us to have a long and hearty Christmas lunch in the middle of the day.
In 30-40 degree heat, a hot roast really isn’t a great idea, so a pretty common alternative for the Australian Christmas lunch is seafood. In the form of a large cold platter. My hosts organise one every year, consisting of prawns, crab, mussels, Moreton Bay bugs and a host of fruit. This year, our supervisor, her husband and mother were also joining us, and brought along a plate of traditional cold meats as well, which were accompanied by a few salads as well. When 1pm rolled along, we gathered down by the bunkhouse with a few of the birds and a huge buffet table and pigged out.
Never been a huge seafood eater, but in this weather it was a fantastic idea. I love prawns, and found the Moreton Bay bugs really good. Not so big on crab, but I certainly didn’t go hungry by holding back on it. Afterwards, despite being pretty damn full, everyone hit the desserts (which have been accumulating every damn day), and gave up with a good 20% still on the table. Managed to decimate the pavlova and plum pudding, but we’ve still got a Christmas cake and gingerbread house to eat before New Years.
Sadly, despite it being Christmas, the birds still need to be fed and cleaned, so in the afternoon everyone was back out recovering from their gorging and checking the birds had enjoyed their meal too. Everyone was so exhausted the house closed down around 6, so just got a little time to play with the little budgie and canary babies I’m hand feeding before heading back to the bunkhouse. The canaries gave me a Christmas gift too – in the form of them learning how to stand on their adorably skinny legs! So glad they’re surviving as well as they are.
I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas – and hopefully far less work than I did in the evening!