A Scottish Christmas Down Under

During the Christmas holidays of 1916 Nan Drennan, a recent arrival to New Zealand, wrote a letter to her mother back in Scotland, noting that she remembered the holidays as a time that they ‘always spend together’. This, however, was now impossible given the physical distance between mother and daughter. The only thing Nan could offer from New Zealand were her thoughts – which she promised would ‘be with [them in Scotland]’. Nan’s experience reflects a broader issue: for many migrants being down under for Christmas and New Year was particularly alien, the reversal of the seasons contributing to a sense of displacement.

It was perhaps because of that feeling that many a Scottish association in the diaspora organised get-togethers and celebrations over the Christmas period. In 1906, for example, the Scottish Thistle
Club in Footscray, Victoria, held a special Christmas social in the Federal Hall. A march was played by the pipe band and then ‘dancing was … indulged in till midnight, the company dispersing with pleasant memories’. A good three decades later, the Bowral Scottish Association held a Christmas tree party – perhaps the tree was decorated in similar style as the one we can see on the image on the right from Rockhampton in Queensland. In Bowral the party was help specifically for the children of Association members. A similar event was held a year later when ‘Santa turned Scotch’. During WWII, however, activities of Bowral Scots took a more sombre form when the Association sent Christmas hampers to men serving in England with the Royal Airforce.

Following in that spirit: Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!

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