I have lived in the same Melbourne apartment for six-years yet it’s never had a Christmas tree. Let me back this up and explain why.
See, when I moved to Melbourne as a 19-year old, I had one agreement with my family: I will spend Easter, Christmas and New Years with them. In hindsight, that’s a bit of a naive thing to agree to; but I did since it’s the least I could do after moving interstate.
So far, for all 18-holiday events, I’ve only missed two because of work overseas. Those are pretty good numbers in my eyes; but as a result, I’ve never really considered dressing up my Melbourne apartment, save for a bit of tinsel around a tree, some fairy lights on the balcony, and my trusty Santa mug.
Coupled with living in Melbourne’s Jewish neighbourhood where I’m more likely to see Hanukkah cards and menorah’s lighting people’s windows, it’s never really been a big deal. The home where I grew up in is where Christmas belongs in my mind.
There’s a big, beautiful tree is at my parent’s house in Adelaide, the Lion’s Club Christmas Cake’s which Dad is insistent on buying multiple boxes of each and every year, and the traditions of searching for Christmas lights around Semaphore on Christmas Eve after going to a Christmas service at our local church.
It also means that I don’t have to try to find space in my apartment’s already limited storage to hide a tree and all the other decorations that come with Christmas.
Until this year.
Enter Emily, my latest airbnb guest
A couple of months ago, a Britsh guest applied to stay at my apartment through Airbnb. Emily was coming to Melbourne to begin her working holiday visa. We chatted a bit over Airbnb messages before and after she had booked to stay at my apartment, but it wasn’t until she landed that I found we really click as both housemates and friends.
I’m her sister’s age and she’s around the same age as my own sister. Oh, and, ironically, we share the same last name (since ‘Smith’ is one of the most common names in the world, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised!)
As the days crept closer and closer to her booking ending, I secretly hoped she would extend; and she did! She’s now been living with me for just over three months and it’s been a riot!
See, being new to the city means she wants to see all the ‘best bits’ of Melbourne, and as a writer – and keen to show off my adopted city – I want to go to all these photos to collect new stories and photos to share with you. It’s been a great match! The fact we’re both Netflix addicts helps too!
Same same but different
Christmas is a big deal in the UK and Australia, but they are celebrated so differently. I’ve found so often it’s when travellers feel most homesick.
Emily has shared stories of big family dinners filled with turkey, puddings, and ‘pigs in blankets’ (not the Aussie way in puff pastry, but sausages rolled in delicious bacon – yum!) Then there’s the gift sharing, chocolate Lindt reindeer, and family time warm and cosy inside while its cold out.
In contrast, Christmas is during summer in Australia. The typical ‘vision’ is people heading to the beach to swim or play beach cricket, enjoying the sun, or relaxing on the verandah after a big lunch.
My own Christmas’ at home are spent swimming in the pool, eating cherries, the snap of pork crackling, and spending time with family from across southern Australia (and a few stray friends!) Also, often there’s travel as this is the only time of year my family can take off from work.
Call it feeling a little guilty for my limited Christmas cheer, call it empathy of knowing how hard it is to be away from family during the holiday season (it’ one of the reasons I cut my own working holiday visa in the UK short), I decided it’s time to finally have a tree to celebrate my first Christmas with an Airbnb guest.
Dressing the apartment for Christmas
While I already had a lovely Christmas scented candle (Glasshouse stocks the most lovely scented Christmas candles! I love ‘Night Before Christmas’ and ‘White Christmas’.)
Can I just say one thing: I found it incredibly hard to find decorations I really love.
At Myer, peacocks are all the rage alongside turquoise and purple decorations.
At David Jones, it’s pineapples and cacti. Greens, yellows, and golds.
What happened to red, green, silver or gold?
I had bought these hand-stitched Australian animals while on Phillip Island (famous for their little penguins) a few years ago while I tried to hunt down their matching kangaroos. I’d all but forgotten about them until I did a massive apartment clean out and spotted them in a box of gift wrapping.
After searching every store that remotely looked like it might sell Christmas goods, I finally found an angel to top the tree in a nondescript newsagent near my apartment.
In fact, this is an ornament designed for a larger 7-8 foot tall tree, but by removing the string and hiding the tag it became my (slightly oversized) tree topper. I think she looks lovely!
If you have any tips on where to find some more lovely decorations, please comment below because I’m still on the hunt and would love to change up what I have to even more fab!
The Tree (and an ode to Target)
After my dreams of a real tree for my first Christmas with an Airbnb guest were dashed due to not being able to find the right one (I have a very particular type of native Australian tree in mind so I can use for Christmas but then keep year-round in the garden), I finally found a full branched Christmas tree I was happy with from Target.
These mini Burlap Christmas Trees also come in gold and silver, but I’m a natural girl. After ringing around Melbourne, I made the drive out to Knox to pick it and some other tidbits up.
With the tree sitting at just 45cm which is perfect for a bookshelf, table or – in my case – TV console.
I found a box of small decorations in the right colours (red and gold), and also these gorgeous Christmas Star LED lights to top the tree off. The lights are battery operated and we found we got about 3-weeks worth of nightly use out of the batteries before needing to recharge them or replace with new ones.
I was actually pretty impressed with the range at Target Knox City and ended up picking up a lot more than I expected. Among them, these Bobble Headed Santa and Reindeer (I believe this year they have Santa and a Snowman!) found their way home with me. They’re kinda kitschy and made me laugh, and that’s what you want at this time of year – joy!
The black Christmas Reindeer are also from Target. I was hoping they’d be large enough to write the countdown to Christmas on them, but alas they are a bit too small. They do however look great near the tree and as Christmas table centrepiece.
While in Australia and America the stockings are hung over the fireplace, in the UK they’re left on the end of the bed for Santa to fill with gifts. When I spotted these adorable Alphabet Letter Stockings I had to get one for each of us.
Walking into Target, I honestly didn’t believe iI was going to spend a dollar. A hundred-or-so dollars later I had everything I needed for Christmas decorating, present wrapping (though IKEA gives Target a run for their money in this department), the Christmas meal (sans food!) and more; plus a few Christmas gifts for family!
I am a Target convert!
These are just a couple of the ways I’m celebrating Christmas with an Airbnb guest.
There’s also a planned Christmas feast complete with roast and Emily’s favourite roast side dish – Yorkshire puddings (the secret part of the meal I haven’t told Emily about yet!)
While you are under no pressure as an Airbnb host to pull out all the stops, or even any stops, for the holiday periods, I wanted to. Emily has become more than an Airbnb guest; she’s family.
This is NOT a sponsored post.
I want to share my journey as an Airbnb host and life in Melbourne.
This is one of those reflections.
All items mentioned – including my new-found love of Target – were bought with my own money.