There is so much fun to be had at Christmas, but one of the biggest sources of joy are the decorations. It makes your home come alive with the magic of the season.
Australia is a bit out of kilter with the traditional yuletide aesthetic of snow and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, when we are swatting flies and pulling shorts off the back of our sweaty legs.
So how can we make the experience decidedly more Great Southern Land? A good place to start is by including native plants in the mix - they make a great addition to the garden and truly herald the start of summer and festive fun.
For something permanent, think about growing a Christmas tree in your backyard. Newcastle Wildflower Nursery in Glendale is stocking Adenanthos sericeus, better known as woolly bush, and, while it's not your classic fir, pine or spruce, this little native can make a perfect Aussie tree.
"Woolly bush is the most popular choice as it's readily available and nice and soft," Dylan Thornton, owner of the nursery, says.
"They do well in pots. They have that typical alpine-tree look synonymous with a Christmas tree and a bit of a grey-green leaf. It's soft which is good for kids, while others are prickly. They tick a lot of boxes," he says.
With a lovely silky platinum foliage and a pine tree shape, it can be kept in a pot and moved inside for a week. You can spruce it up each year with ornaments and tinsel, although, with its shimmery leaves, not much is needed to make it shine.
Christmas bush has a strong association with region, as we begin to see the small red flowers bursting open all around the place. These trees can grow quite large, but a sprig inside on the Christmas table can make the atmosphere very festive.
"Western Australian red flowering gums are also immensely popular, flowering in time for summer," Thornton says.
"Use the leaves for table decorations, or the cut flowers for Christmas Day."
"I've also known people to put a flower in a jar of water and seal it so it lasts longer. You can do this with bottlebrush and grevilleas too."
Plants make a lovely gift, but can also be included in your menu. Australian bush tucker is finally starting to get traction with finger limes, lemon myrtle, wattle seed and native fruit trees making their way into kitchens.
To keep the native flora theme going throughout your house, try making a wreath for the front door. Newcastle Food and Flower Markets are holding one-and-a-half hour Christmas wreath workshops until December 18. All materials are supplied, including native flowers and beautiful foliage. It's a great alternative to holly and ivy and, depending on the type of plants used, your wreath should last a while, otherwise it can be refreshed to suit any theme or colour scheme. Think about using the same foliage on the main dining table, in vases, or even a dried sprig on gifts to tie it all together.
Christmas crackers are a classic around the festive table, but after the corny jokes are read and the paper crown gets taken off, it all gets thrown away.
Lake Mac local Mardi Lee, owner of eco-living blog French for Tuesday, makes and sells her own as a way to keep all the fun, but with less waste.
"My Granny was so keen on Christmas; she always supplied bonbons," Lee says. "One year she bought these expensive ones and we were all disappointed. You still got the trinket, but it was useless. She would have spent a lot of money on something we still threw away."
"I thought, 'there's a real problem, we're still wasting lots'. So, I started making my own at home, popped in gifts like scratchies and little bottles of booze. The idea sparked from there."
Now Mardi sells her handmade bonbons online in sets of two, five or as a single, to cover a variety of guest numbers. Each has a hat, a corny joke and a gift. While the tubing is outsourced, everything else is lovingly crafted by either Mardi or with functional gifts from a local producer.
"New for this year we have OzTukka ethically-sourced bush tucker spices," she says.
"With spices including wattle seed and lemon myrtle, it's a lucky dip of flavour for all. We have soap samples from Honeybee House Skin Co based in Caves Beach. Also, Christmas macrame star decorations from Hook, Line and Stitcher."
If you prefer DIY, Lee sells make-your-own bonbon kits so you can really personalise the gifts and jokes. And fear not, both the ready-made and DIY options come with the mandatory crack.
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