For many of us, ‘Christmas Lunch’ evokes a familiar feeling of a perfectly prepared roast and Nan’s celebratory plum pudding.
However, my personal experience can be a little to the contrary, as the only non-negotiable part of our Christmas is not the traditional meal, but the location (and perhaps the bread and cheese platter).
Every Christmas morning, after a long year, my family begins the four-to-five hour endeavour from Traralgon to the easternmost point of Victoria, Mallacoota, without fail. It’s a road trip through Sale, Rosedale, Bairnsdale, then to a Maccas, heading past Lakes Entrance, over Bemm River, through Cann River with a quick stop for the toilet, and then car-sick-central Genoa Road, before finally arriving to the serenity, sunshine, blissful beachside and the spirit of a ‘Coota Christmas.
This is where we set up camp and stay until our cheeks are sun-kissed, our freckles become exaggerated and the hot road burns our bare feet each and every day. It’s the corner of the Earth where we live simply; we eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, and relax.
Arrival is usually followed by a stretch of the legs, then slipping into our theme dependant dress-up (a different costume concept each year) before taking a boat ride across the lake and the inevitable Aussie BBQ, complemented by a platter stacked to the nines with every variety of dip, crackers and cheese you can imagine. It’s a very merry Christmas indeed.
To me, Christmas lunch means family, too much food to eat all at once, bonbons and some complaining that you are too full, only to continue to enjoy some more incredible food.
Although we often exchange gifts prior to eating, Christmas lunch in our family is a gift all in itself. It’s a gift of inner peace, utter contentment and reciprocated love. Christmas lunch is not just about the food, but also pointless conversations, bad dad jokes, too much noise, too many photos and drawing too much attention to our eccentric campsites.
Whether the year’s theme is tribal, boho, nautical or white, it only seems appropriate for some elaborate costuming and mood-setting decorations to accentuate our camp. Fairy lights, Christmas trees, shells, sand and driftwood have been found spread from caravan to caravan across our foreshore strip, creating our favourite kind of atmosphere, a merry one!
After lunch, we then face the struggle of getting the dogs to cooperate long enough to quickly take a group photo. As the perfect photograph disappears into shouts of this is ‘good enough’, we then find any excuse for some beach cricket, ‘pin the anchor on the ship’, a dive off the jetty or a standing-on-one-leg competition, before heading back to the caravans for some well-deserved Christmas bevvies and a casual card game or 10.
The sun tends to sink into the sky just in time to stack some extra Chrissy dinner on top of our BBQ-filled tummies. If it’s not freshly caught flathead and chippies from the Mallacoota Pizza Shop, it’s probably leftovers from our extraordinary lunch. Truly, Christmas lunch means ‘food for the next three days’ to me.
Although Christmas is really only one day, it truly is the season to be jolly. A season filled with food, presents, decorations and anticipation. Our Christmas celebrations even carry into the new year — starting the year off the right way, the Mallacoota way.
Obviously, the new year has brought incredibly destructive fires to the region, resulting in the loss of homes, buildings and community infrastructure to the beautiful town of Mallacoota, and large swathes of East Gippsland. If you can, please support charities such as the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund that help Gippslanders affected by natural disaster events. Donate here – thank you!