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Surviving the Holidays in Australia

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As someone who has always been rather independent (moving across the country to go to boarding school at 14?  Yep, that's me!) I have never been one to get really homesick.  However, if I had to pick a time when I miss living in the US the most, it is Fall.  There's something about the season when the air starts getting crisp, and leaves start falling to the ground, and celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving in the lead up to December that just isn't the same here in Australia.  Perhaps it is because the weather is getting warmer (or at least should be… thank you for nothing, Melbourne!), or because the shops bring out their Christmas decorations on September 1st, or because the biggest 'holiday' during this time is the Spring Racing Carnival, where fancy dresses are the norm, not oversized holiday sweaters that hide the extra pounds from too much Halloween candy and Thanksgiving dinner. 


Now during the time I've been here, it's gotten a bit easier in some ways.  Halloween has really taken off, as now carving pumpkins are widely available in supermarkets, eliminating the need to trek to Prahran Market and fork over a ridiculous amount of money for a very tiny pumpkin.  Costumes and decorations are everywhere, and whole neighbourhoods are embracing trick or treating.  For Thanksgiving, turkeys are available in supermarkets thanks to their popularity for Australian Christmas meals.


Now that I'm older (and a mom), I want to pass on the best of American holidays to my kids.  I've taken pumpkins into kinder to carve with the kids.  It's a lot of fun, despite my average carving skills, as the kids generally haven't seen a carved pumpkin before.  We decorate our house and welcome trick or treaters.  Next year, my girls will be old enough to go themselves. 


For Thanksgiving, I saw my Facebook feed fill with American expat requests for help in finding American brand items for Thanksgiving meals.  It made me smile, because I used to do the same. Trips to the supermarket were an adventure.  Nothing seemed to be in a location that made sense.  Choices were limited.  Everything was expensive.  I often ended up with more than I wanted due to thinking in pounds rather than kilos.  I found it odd that people would go to a greengrocers, butcher and fishmonger instead of a supermarket with everything under one roof. 


However, after living in Australia for so long now (13 years and counting), I've accepted that the best method is to make things from scratch.  Perhaps it was the popularity of cooking shows here that inspired me, or my tastes changed.  It took while to find suitable substitutes, but they do exist.  Some are just called something different entirely (Coriander?  Capsicum?  Rocket?), others are similar enough that I've forgotten what the American version was like.  


Now, one of my favorite things to do when visiting the US is to go the grocery store.  My family think I'm nuts, but I could spend hours looking at the aisles. I'm amazed by the amount of prepared food and prepackaged meals available.  And inevitably, I find myself missing Australia and the limited choices.  I miss the great markets we have here in Melbourne with Queen Victoria, South Melbourne and Prahran, and the freshness of our produce. 


So while I still struggle with the conflicting season and holidays of this time of year, I am happy that I can still pass on my American holiday traditions to my kids, even if it is Australian-style.  A can of cranberry sauce with the rings would be welcome, though.  

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