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Australians work Tahoe slopes

What’s the biggest difference between the way Australians and Americans celebrate Christmas?

The weather.

“Right now it’s about 110 degrees,” said Will Price, of Brisbane.



Price, along with a large Australian and New Zealand contingency, is spending the winter in Tahoe, working at ski resorts as part of the International Exchange Student Program.

Here in the United States, Christmas generally conjures up images of the family gathered around a warm fire while the snow gently falls outside.




Then, it’s time to venture to the dining room table for a hearty dinner of ham or turkey or prime rib.

Down under, Christmas is a lot different.

Price, who is working at Sierra-at-Tahoe this winter, joked Christmas was the same as it is here but Santa wears shorts and thongs.

In reality, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays have a completely different feel.

In Australia and New Zealand, the holidays fall during summer break.

The exchange students at Sierra said most of the Christmas and New Year’s activities have a decidedly summer-like feel.

“Seafood is popular on Christmas,” said Rebecca Keighran, also of Brisbane.

“But no one’s ever heard the saying, ‘Shrimp on the barbie,'” added Ryan Garbacz, of Noosa.

Keighran said she’s noticed a connection Americans make between the winter season and Christmas that obviously isn’t felt in Australia.

“They’re very enthusiastic about Christmas here,” Keighran said.

Price, 26, said beer drinking and barbecuing is popular during the December holidays. Australians celebrate Christmas, then Boxing Day (during which time Price joked they get into fights) the next day, followed by New Year’s the next week.

Some of the younger contingency said this would be their first Christmas away from home. Melanie Croxson, an 18-year-old from New Castle, said this would be her first Christmas away from the family.

Meghan O’Dwyer, 20, from Melbourne, said she wasn’t planning on either a traditional Australian or American Christmas this year.

“I’m just going to go out for dinner,” O’Dwyer said. “We’re all working all day so none of us can cook.”

The Aussies are perhaps looking forward to New Year’s Eve in America more than Christmas.

Price said New Year’s in Australia typically entails mammoth fireworks displays. He said he may go to San Francisco to bring in this New Year.

Alice Talbot, a 20-year-old hailing from Tauranga, New Zealand, said Christmas there is similar to Australia but a game of touch rugby must be had by all.

In Australia, games are also a part of the holiday, but they are different.

“Cricket is definitely for Christmas,” Keighran said.

The down-under contingency said some things are different here, such as less courteous people, different light switches, less stars in the night sky and water spirals down drains in the opposite direction, but, the spirit of Christmas is one that’s felt regardless of which side of the equator one dwells.

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