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Christmas without snow? Easter without bunnies? Australians are taking traditional holidays and modifying them to give them a uniquely “Down Under” flavour. Read on for more about these holidays with an Aussie twist.
Text by: Elizabeth Nelson
Country:Australia

hen Easter comes this year, many children in Australia will find themselves without any Easter Bunnies. There will be chocolate. There will be eggs. And there will be a big-eared, cute, little creature made of chocolate, but it will not be a rabbit. More and more Australians are turning to the Easter Bilby to celebrate this delicious holiday.

Bilbies are small native animals that, with the rise in popularity of the Easter Bilby, are slowly getting themselves off the endangered species list. The substitution of the “traditional” Easter bunny with a native animal is one of many examples of how holidays in Australia are being changed and adapted to become more familiar, more local and, in the Easter Bilby’s case, more environmentally aware.

It was in 1999 that Easter Bilbys first appeared on the shelves of Australian chocolate store Darrell Lea. And since 1999 to now, a portion of the profits of the Easter Bilby sales go to a foundation supporting the survival of bilbies. The move to replace rabbits with bilbies was a political one, made because rabbits are considered pests in Australia: an introduced species that destroys native plants and crops. There are still many Easter Bunnies on the shelves from international and national chocolate makers, but buying “Bilbies not bunnies” (as the advertising slogan goes) is increasingly seen as both positive and patriotic.

Bilbies are a natural part of the ecosystem and cause little to no impact. They are at risk of extinction due to slow breeding rates, competition for land with rabbits and the destruction of their natural habitat. Animal specialist, Scott MacRae, says: “In Australia we clear away the undergrowth, all the low-lying plants and trees that have fallen onto the ground, to diminish the risk of bushfires; but in doing so we are clearing away the bilbies’ natural habitat.”

Not every holiday adaptation is such a consciously patriotic move: some changes, such as the popular image of Santa catching a wave on his surfboard instead of flying in on his sleigh, are both amusing and make more sense to children. When a child has grown up without ever seeing frost, let alone snow, the idea of a white Christmas is absolutely foreign. Popular Christmas carols have been adapted to include native animals and Australiana themes. Rather than “a partridge in a pear tree,” which evokes a gentle image of a small bird primly placed in the tree, Australians sing about “an emu up a gum tree”; one imagines the lanky, land-dwelling bird is stuck or has been ‘plonked’ up the tree.

Even Jingle Bells has gone from “Riding through the snow in a one horse open sleigh” to “Crashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute”. Again the language is rougher, the image is Australian (the “bush” being slang for the native forests of Australia) and the picturesque sleigh has turned into a “rusty Holden ute”, a pick-up truck of Australian make that is obviously, judging by the rust, a little worse for wear.

Christmas comes in the middle of summer where temperatures can soar to 40+ degrees. The adaptations made to our holidays are built around the climate, knowledge and experience of the Australian people. The classic, snowy white Christmas is just a nostalgic image for Australians.

Through film and other popular culture, children are aware that Christmas is traditionally set in winter, but when I asked several Australians to describe their last Christmas they all agreed that a traditional hot roast was not on the menu. “We had a turkey last year” a friend from Sydney offered, “but we cooked it on the barbeque.”

When asked what made the perfect Aussie Christmas feast, all agreed that it was a mix of various cold meats, salad, fresh seafood, fresh fruit and pastry items. And one special tradition to be enjoyed over the holidays, agreed on by all, was a game of beach cricket. The rules for beach cricket don’t really differ from that of normal cricket; there are a few variations, but essentially if there is a bat and a beach, the game can be played – wickets are a bonus!

It’s a far cry fromdashing through the snow’ but to Aussies, it’s our Christmas, our holiday, our traditions.


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Easy Summary

In Australia, children are without any Easter Bunnies. There will be chocolate. There will be eggs. But there will not be rabbits. Australians are now turning to the Easter Bilby to celebrate this holiday.

Bilbies are small native animals that are slowly getting themselves off the endangered species list. The substitution of the “traditional” Easter bunny with a native animal is an example of how holidays in Australia are being changed and adapted.

In 1999 Easter Bilbys appeared on the shelves of Australian chocolate store Darrell Lea. Since 1999 to now, a part of the profits of the Easter Bilby sales go to a foundation supporting the survival of bilbies. The decision to replace rabbits with bilbies was a political one, because rabbits are considered pests in Australia. Buying “Bilbies not bunnies” is now seen as positive and patriotic.

Other holiday adaptations include: - the popular image of Santa catching a wave on his surfboard instead of flying in on his sleigh, is both amusing and makes more sense to children - when a child has grown up without ever seeing snow, the idea of a white Christmas is completely strange - popular Christmas carols have been adapted to include native animals and Australiana themes. Rather than “a partridge in a pear tree,” Australians sing about “an emu up a gum tree

 

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Holidays with an Aussie twist

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