Christmas with Ballarat's Intercultural Ambassadors

Different cultures have their own unique ways of celebrating Christmas.

We spoke to four of the City of Ballarat's Intercultural Ambassadors to find out how they honour the festive season away from their home country.

Grecia Sanchez (Venezuela)

"I moved to Ballarat in 2017.

For Christmas, we get together with family and friends around 22 or 23 December to celebrate with Venezuelan traditions.

Together we cook hallacas (main image), which is our traditional food for Christmas. This is a long process and everyone has a job to do. Everyone gathers around a big table with music and drinks whilst making the hallacas, which are made up of a slow-cooked stew with different meats and a cornmeal dough which is wrapped up in banana leaves.

The traditional dinner dish consists of hallacas, pan de jamón (bread stuffed with ham which is rolled up with raisins and olives), roast pork and potato salad.

We celebrate Christmas Eve with a big dinner and at midnight, when baby Jesus is born, we open the gifts and hug each other. After that, we have a big party.

On 25 December, we get together again and enjoy more cooking and drinks with friends and family during the day."

Christmas with Yvon Davis
Christmas with Yvon Davis
Yvon Davis (Netherlands)

"I was born in the Netherlands and have migrated to Ballarat (Australia) twice – the second and last time in 1974.

Christmas was important in our family, not the religious part, but the tree. My father having a German (East Prussian) background, I’m sure was the reason for this.

Every year, a tree had to be carefully selected, making sure it was tall enough (but not too tall in case it didn’t fit the in the loungeroom), well spaced and green.

The thing I liked most was the decorating. My father would decide on the colours, perhaps gold and silver, blue and silver, or maybe just all silver. We would set off to the store, where you got little baskets to put your selected Christmas decorations in, careful not to break them as the baubles were always glass.

I still have to have a tree and always glass decorations, except for when the children were small as they could break and hurt them. And yes, I decide beforehand which colours, check what I have that’s okay and often add just a few more decorations.

This photo is of my brother and myself, I think it was around 1967, dressed in our best clothes, looking at the tree, wondering about the presents and listening to Christmas music. And, if we were lucky, it might even snow on Christmas Day!"

Christmas with Meeta Narsi
Christmas with Meeta Narsi
Meeta Narsi (India/South Africa)

"I am of Indian descent, where both my maternal and paternal parents migrated from India to South Africa.

We were unsure about life going forward in South Africa, particularly in terms of our safety, and decided to migrate to Australia.

In 1998, my husband, son and I made the move to Australia for new opportunities and to experience a better lifestyle.

The equivalent of Christmas for an Indian is our cultural Diwali festival. The way we now celebrate Christmas feels like an extension of our Diwali, which we cannot enjoy in the same way like we did with family in South Africa.

There has been a transition in the way we celebrate Christmas over the years. When I grew up, my uncle would take a group of us kids to see the Christmas lights in Johannesburg. This is what made Christmas special for me – the lights and being with my cousins.

The first time we put up a Christmas tree was in Australia when my son asked for one as all his friends at school were putting up their family tree. Now this has become our annual family tradition, with our list of decorations getting longer every year.

We decorate the internal of the house, bake festive biscuits and cakes, and also attend carols.

With Christmas songs playing in the background and family and friends close to us, we enjoy a big roast lunch with all the trimmings, and watch a few old Christmas movies. It is much work to prepare, decorate the table and organise the event, but the results are always so enjoyable that it surely makes it worth the effort."

Christmas with Rose Boquida
Christmas with Rose Boquida
Rose Boquida (Philippines)

"I am originally from the Philippines and have been in Australia since January 1991.

Our family do celebrate Christmas back in the Philippines – we are Roman Catholic by faith and Christmas is one big celebration for us. At the strike of midnight, we actually would be in the church celebrating the midnight mass.

There is not much difference celebration-wise here in Australia because our community still try to celebrate the way we know back home.

Leading to the big day, family and friends just come and go to visit. Giving presents has not been a practice.

We are more about just getting together, eating, singing, dancing, drinking and just sharing stories with each other – it is more fun. Gathering is so casual and laid back."


Click here to find out more about Christmas in Ballarat