Christmas in Australia is all about backyard barbeques, seafood banquets and beach swims. While some persist with traditional yuletide fare like roast turkey and mulled wine despite the heat, cold-weather spreads make no sense in an Australian summer. There’s a way around that – Christmas in July.
Pulling off a memorable mid-year Christmas is all about pretending it’s the real deal while spending time with friends and family. So says Lisa Plafadellis, a former marketing manager who now runs events business Lettuce and Co. with friend Robyn Lovric. With years of standalone event experience up her sleeve, Plafadellis talks us through everything you need to know to celebrate your first-ever Christmas in July.
Design a true feast
“The best festivities are when things are shared,” says Plafadellis. She recommends things like “sharing platters of roasts with potatoes, warm pies with crusty pastries, cakes and puddings.”
The classic choice here is a roast bird – take your pick of turkey, goose, duck, or chicken,– smothered in gravy and served with caramelised veggies.
If you’re roasting a turkey, there’s a few logistics you need to consider. Ensure you have a big enough roasting tray and your free-range bird actually fits in the oven. Also, check the exact weight before it goes in so you can calculate the correct cooking time, and allow time for your turkey to rest before serving.
An impressive modern twist is a whole fish, like salmon or trout, baked in the oven or on the barbeque. Stuff the fish with lemon and herbs like thyme and parsley, and serve it with crisp roast potatoes and steamed greens.
Christmas is no time for skimping, whatever the season. Include treats like mince pies, gingerbread, bûche de Noël (sounds so much nicer than ‘yule log’) and brandy snaps. In winter you can’t go wrong with warming desserts like brandy-soaked Christmas pudding and sherry-filled trifle.
Plan a range of drinks
It wouldn’t be Christmas in July without bookends of traditional eggnog, a heady mix of eggs, sugar, milk, cream and bourbon; and mulled wine, a deliciously warm brew spiced with cinnamon, cloves, orange rind and vanilla.
For the heart of the meal, crisp Stella Artois served in its signature chalice looks impressive on the table, and keeps the palate clean for the rich foods on offer.
Christmas decorations, of course
While the Christmas spread is the star of the show, the right room styling can help create a suitably wintery Christmas atmosphere.
Christmas crackers are a good place to start, as much for their festive look as their lame innards. “What's Christmas without silly paper crowns and crap jokes we’ve heard time and time again?” says Plafadellis, who encourages splurging on good-quality crackers. Because you’ll need the best crown to match your charming Christmas jumper.
An array of baubles, candles and twigs of spruce “can add a sophisticated touch with very little effort,” says Plafadellis, who also suggests saving time by setting the table the night before. “If guests start arriving early they’ll see a beautiful set table, even if you’re still manic in the kitchen.”
Don’t forget to make a playlist of kitsch carols and Christmas crooners to match the festive cheer. It’s surprising how many musical artists have a Christmas album hiding in their back catalogue. Among the best cheesy go-tos are Frank Sinatra’s A Jolly Christmas, Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey, and A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him. The perfect backing tracks for your Secret Santa gifting session.
Don’t despair if it detours
It’s important to plan in advance, but don’t despair if things don’t stick to schedule. In the week before the dinner, nail down a menu and then work out shopping lists and rough timing for tasks on the day. “It’s not all doom and gloom if you make a mistake or have to make a slight detour from the plan,” says Plafadellis. “If you look like you’re having a good time then so will your guests. Relax with them, take time to talk with them, and enjoy a drink.”
Checklist to remember:
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Stella Artois.