An Orphan Christmas: Decapitating a Duck and Disturbed Friends

When I think of Christmas, I usually think of falling snow, tall, fragrant fir trees and the warmth coming from flickering candles. Romantic, I know. I certainly don’t think of scorching heat, plastic trees and body glitter.

First, we’ll take it back to the few weeks before Christmas. Several months ago, at Becky’s farewell party, I drunkenly exclaimed I would run a half-marathon by the end of the year. That was back when I was running a lot and thought I’d be cooler if I achieved something. Since there are no half-marathon events in Sydney until next year, I had to just arrange my own unofficial event, and since I can’t really run anymore, I figured walking would be better than not sticking by my promise at all. So I guess when I get up at 5 one morning and walk 25 km, I haven’t really achieved what I set out to do, but it’s a great achievement to me nonetheless. Another tick off the bucket list!

Some of Sharon’s best friends from back home, Ciara and Devitt, have recently moved to Sydney, so we meet up with them at Cheers for a couple of drinks that turn into about fifteen too many.

We have a lot of fun, especially with pulling funny faces and doing bad pick-up lines, because this is only the 4th time this month that someone tells me I look like Laura Clery. You know, the girl with the blonde messy bun and double chin who constantly hits on/harasses Stephen?

This is strangely disturbing…

Then strangers start joining us, like the English Viking who gives me shit for my accent, while I give him shit for trying to look like my people. Then Sharon and I decide to go home, because it’s getting late, even though it probably isn’t, we’re just old ladies who’d rather sit on the couch in our PJs.

My last week at work before the Christmas break, I go to Hotel Sweeney’s for drinks with my co-workers Aitor and Ellie. We sit on the rooftop in the scorching heat, drink watermelon beer and catch up.

Eventually, Aitor leaves, and Open Mic starts, which Ellie and I get very excited about. We are possibly the loudest audience members, and one of the comedians even calls me a bitch for loudly answering him when he asks the audience if they’ve ever heard of The Mannequin Challenge, and we don’t care. Some of the comedians are hilarious, especially a guy who starts off by telling us that he just bought a pair of socks, when an audience member yells out “what kind of socks?” and he spends his whole set ripping into her. The not-so-funny ones include a guy who talks about how uncomfortable he feels during sex, and even after his time is up, he continues talking about the subject for another 5 minutes, making us feel uncomfortable.

Back in Randwick, most of December has been spent shopping for presents, decorations and food. We bring out the old plastic tree from last year and spend the better part of one of our days off looking for silver and red baubles in Bondi. We decorate the tree with the baubles we eventually find, along with a tiny pink one that fell off a tree at Madame Tussauds.  We wrap empty boxes and put them under the tree to make it look more Christmas-y and less sad, because we are orphans and have no one to give us presents*. The living room is now full of tinsel and Christmas cards and snow globes and Santas, which is a welcome change, since we usually keep it pretty decoration-less in the flat.

Us, if we were Disney Princesses/bodywash

*I take that back, here’s a present/care package my mom and sister sent me after my birthday.

To get into the Christmas spirit, Sharon and I head into the city on a Monday to see the Lights of Christmas at St. Mary’s Cathedral. While we wait for the sun to go down, a choir is singing carols on the steps of the church, and then the light projections start. It’s cozy and a little cold, just like Christmas should be. We also find an old lady’s Opal card and try calling the number she’s left on the back of the card, but with no luck, so we leave it on the ground where we found it and run away.

Grabbing some holiday drinks – crunchy toffee nut frappuccino FTW.

On the 23rd we swing by Darren and Rhi’s to wish them and baby Harri a merry Christmas, as they’re flying home to Wales the following day. They give us a sweet Christmas card of Harri and Santa, and very thoughtful presents: potatoes and bacon. It’s a joke, because apparently the Irish love potatoes, and Danes love pork, and that’s why Darren calls us Auntie Potato and Auntie Pig.

We give Harri a present too, and he basically unwraps the present himself, which we are super impressed by. Henry, Justin and a bunch of other people stop by as well, and before I know it, I’ve drank the whole bottle of Sauv Blanc I received as a Christmas present from my boss, and we are so drunk, we ask our Uber driver for advice on how to cook a duck and then we make pasta before passing out.

As Christmas is my favourite holiday, I once again insist on my traditional Danish Christmas on the 24th, which includes cooking an intimidating feast of a whole duck and roast pork with crackling, caramelized potatoes with gravy, and pickled red cabbage. Since no one approved of last year’s dessert, I make æbleskiver, which can best be described as fluffy, round donuts with raspberry jam and powdered sugar.

With Christmas music in the background, I start a long day of cooking in a super hot kitchen. Sharon is proudly helping me with the crackling, screaming while I decapitate a whole duck and laughing while my hand’s up its rear. Honestly though, I have never come across a duck with its neck still attached, and trying to cut through the neck and then twisting it off is traumatizing.

Eventually, several hours later, food is on the table. We’ve invited Siobhan, and Tanya’s sadly at work until 11. It’s a million degrees in the apartment, so we have to put a fan in front of us just to avoid boiling over.

After dinner, we whip out Disturbed Friends and incorporate a card game Siobhan has gotten me as a present, called Suddenly Drunk.

I am so drained after a whole day of cooking in the heat and then drinking, that I am almost asleep on the couch by the time Tanya comes home. We then play a game of pakkeleg, which includes a table full of little presents and rolling a dice until you get a 6, and then you can grab one of the presents. Eventually, all presents are gone, and then a timer is set to an unknown amount of time, in which you get to steal presents off each other until the time is up. The girls spend 7 minutes fighting for a room deodorizer in the shape of an egg.

The next morning, we get up early and call our families before opening presents. We’ve gone from wrapping a few boxes just to make the room look less empty, to having a huge amount of real presents under the tree. Our bookshelf is full of cards from friends, family, each other and baby Harri. It’s very Christmas-y, except for the fact that we have sweatstaches and have to apply SPF 50 just to go outside.

For Tanya, we have bought a picture that says “ho ho ho” and glued our faces into the O’s, a box of princess-y things, and a wine glass saying “Queen T’s wine”. Sharon gets a toy giraffe and a whole box of Kinder eggs from Tanya, and neon green Budgy Smugglers from me. I get a toy puppy, a game of twister and a trip to the cat café!

Siobhan comes over after we’ve opened the presents, and we fill up our esky with ciders and cheese and head down to Coogee beach. Here, we set up with a tiny Christmas tree in the middle of our circle, fake snow, tinsel, SPF 50 and body glitter in a can. We play Christmas music – sidenote, I still can’t believe I was singing along to Wham! as George Michael passed away – drink ciders, talk to a few strangers that fall onto us, and Craig and Malin join us for a few hours.

It’s a bazillion degrees, which leads to sunburns and general exhaustion, so we get a Summer Sides box at Maccas, and then hop in an Uber, get told off by the driver for being sandy, and then arrive home, where we pass out after some food.

Boxing Day also means Race Day, as International passport holders get in for free. Tanya and I don’t bring our passports and have to pay $15 for a printed ticket, while Siobhan gets in for free. We place our bets, with Tanya winning most races, and get a nice seat in the shade to avoid any more sunburns.

A group of people ask if they can sit with us and offer some champagne. From here, I black out, but I remember having fun with our new friends, buying a bottle of wine and a pizza, then having an English guy sit on my lap while I try to find a way to tell him he’s crushing me, then I feel super ill and call for an Uber, then I fall on my ass on my way out of the race grounds and sprain my ankle, then I throw up and take my new, white dress off and pass out on my bed. Sharon comes home to a mess from the big Irish breakfast that Tanya made for us in the morning, my belongings scattered everywhere and me, unconscious and naked. I wake up at 9 PM, still very sick, and apologize to Sharon.

After all the fun I’ve had this December, it’s time for a little detox. As I am sitting on the couch with a black, blue and red knee and a sprained ankle, a hangover that will last me days, and a sweatstache permanently on my face, I can’t help but feel like the luckiest girl ever. I didn’t get to spend Christmas with my family, but I have people around me that are great substitutes, and I’m so thankful for how much they’ve gone out of their way to make the events that are most important to me (birthday and Christmas, of course) extra special. What a way to end an otherwise kind of crappy year!

To end my super long post, here’s a picture of Bob, the praying mantis that visited our balcony while we were celebrating Eugene Levy’s birthday.