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Christmas with Neale Whitaker

10 Dec 2020 |  by Neale Whitaker

After the year we’ve had, we all deserve The Best Christmas Ever. It’s little wonder so many of us – me included – have already decorated our trees and hung our wreaths on the front door. Because even in this most unpredictable of years, there’s something so reassuring, so … comforting about Christmas. This year it can’t come fast enough. Mind you, it took me a while to get used to an Aussie Christmas. I grew up in England and while we rarely had the snow-laden Christmases of the movies (cue Bridget Jones’s Diary and The Holiday) there was definitely something romantic and special about those long, cold, winter nights and Christmas cheer.

And then I moved to Australia and suddenly everyone was talking about prawns and mangoes, about visiting the fish market on Christmas Eve and heading out for a surf on Christmas morning. My DNA recoiled. Where were the turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies? And whose idea was it to call crackers bon-bons? Fortunately for me, my partner David - though born in Australia - has British ancestry and shares my love of an English-style Christmas. For several years we made road trips with our canine family the focus of the holiday, but since moving to the NSW south coast we love to celebrate at home with friends dropping in whenever they like.

Our tree is traditional (strictly a palette of red, green, gold and silver – and always white lights) but there will be fresh-cut flowers from the garden – especially roses and frangipani – to decorate the table. Chef David will serve prawns followed by roast turkey and ham, and this year he’s made Christmas cake and pudding, having recently re-discovered his mother’s original, hand-written recipes. My skills are better-suited to opening bottles and varying the music from Mariah to Buble. Lunch will be served outside on our shady verandah, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that you can never have enough outdoor furniture. Because once that long, lazy lunch is finished we’ll stay on the verandah to watch the sun set on the hills – and every outdoor sofa, armchair, dining chair and ottoman will be occupied. It’s a dress-circle view that needs to be savoured slowly with a glass of something chilled - and a can of Aerogard. No Aussie Christmas is complete without the latter.

Organised-but-flexible might sound contradictory but I guess it sums up our attitude to Christmas. We plan in advance as far as possible (don’t forget to check your guests’ dietary requirements), but we try not to stress or over-think. There are usually one or two more guests than expected (though less likely perhaps in COVID times) and Christmas lunch will rarely start on time. Whatever ‘on time’ means. At some point we will run out of ice and invariably there’ll be more overnight guests than spare beds – that’s what sofa beds are made for. But – and repeat after me - there is no such thing as too much Champagne and no such thing as calories on Christmas Day. Believe me, this year – more than any other year – we have earned ourselves a very merry Christmas. 

Neale's favourite pieces of furniture for Christmas entertaining

1. Zaza Outdoor

Featured: Zaza Outdoor in Maldives Silver

2. King Cove Sunlounger

Featured: King Cove Sunlounger in Maldives White

3. Quay Dining

Featured: Quay Dining Table in Rock/Slate II; Quay II Outdoor Dining Chair in Malibu Eucalyptus - Woven

4. Luna Chair

Featured: Luna Outdoor Chair in Malibu Eucalyptus and Blush