Christmas is a lovely time of year wherever you celebrate it, but for Subiaco locals, it’s full of special magic.
BY | Gail Williams Image | Matt Jelonek
Adam Gilchrist AM
This Christmas will be a Santa sack full of question marks for Subi icon – and international cricket legend – Adam Gilchrist AM.
The cricket commentator and former Australian captain and now author of a children's book, Champions of cricket - is still wondering whether COVID border restrictions will allow him to come home to Subi.
One of our suburb’s most high profile residents, Gilly is often seen at Boucla, shopping at Farmer Jack’s or having a quiet one at Juanita’s but he is unsure whether this year he will be able to celebrate with Mel – his high school sweetheart – and their four children.
But true to form he is putting a positive spin on the uncertainty as he shares the family’s special Christmas rituals.
“Like most families we leave Santa, Rudolph and his team some refreshments to help them keep going,” says the record-breaking wicketkeeper.
Mel, a dietitian, who also has a reputation as a sensational cook, usually puts together a huge feast which has to contain mushy peas – a family favourite – and a glazed leg of ham.
The Gilchrists love spending Christmas in Subiaco and have a soft spot for the giant Christmas tree outside the City of Subiaco administration centre.
“We love the summer sunsets on warm balmy nights when there is no howling breeze,” he says.
The tree reminds him of childhood Christmases spent in Bellingen, New South Wales.
“I always remember the amazing atmosphere and the sense of excitement,” he says.
His best Christmas gift ever?
“A pair of green and white wicket keeping gloves,” he laughs. “I was going to be the fastest bowler in the world. "However, I saw these gloves in a sports store and loved them. Santa obviously did the rest and they played a massive role in me following the career path I did.”
And, aren’t we glad they did?
Alessia & Caillan Richards
Be Free Organics
Alessia and Caillan Richards are no strangers to stressful Christmas Days.
Two years ago, the couple pushed their anxiety levels to the limit. In 2019 they had not only just opened Be Free Organics their organic cafe and deli in Hay Street, but they had planned their wedding for two days after Christmas.
And what did they do in the lead-up to the wedding? Oh, invited 40 family members for a huge lunch in the courtyard of their home. As you do.
The event included a United Nations gathering of family members who had flown in from New Zealand, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the UK and interstate for the wedding.
It’s lucky they had some of their organic, healthy foods on the menu – providing the bride and groom with the vitamins, minerals, enzymes to give their bodies the best chance of being calm and chilled on their big day.
This year, it will be a bit different for Caillan, who was raised in Hong Kong and Zimbabwean-born Alessia as a smaller crowd of 20 family members will rock up.
Alessia, a full-time architect, also throws herself into working in the business in the busy lead up to Christmas where the shop is full of customers looking for that special gift.
“We will have a very big, long table lunch.” says Caillan. “This year I have been asked to play Father Christmas as we welcome my niece into the family for her first Christmas.”
And, yes, there will be some organic salads on the menu. “And, all sorts of drinks, including cocktails and health drinks,” he says.
Those on the hunt for an organic and sustainable Christmas lunch should check out the range of organic meats, wild-caught fish, organic dairy products and pickled vegetables at Be Free Organics.
Paolo & Aimee Butto
Urban Soul Foods
When it comes to Christmases past Paolo Butto has fond memories of his childhood at Stresa on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.
So, this year he will add a European twist to Subi festivities as he cooks up delectable pasta dishes at his cafe, Urban Soul Foods.
Love abounds in long tables, groaning with baked goods, courtesy of his wife, Aimee, and loads of favourite Italian dishes.
Butto says the Subiaco vibe reminds him of his childhood where the village hummed with bars brimming with revellers, live music, festive lights and the ritual of midnight mass all – carried out under a dusting of snow.
Today he misses the smell of chestnuts roasting. Then again, he might just get that down in Albany where the couple are heading for a break after catering to demands for edible Christmas gifts for Subi-ites.
“Walking around the coast of Albany is our favourite part, unfortunately, no roaring fire but nonetheless filled with joy,” he says.
Their Christmas menu always includes lasagne, Christmas pudding and, of course panettone.
Will Parkes, one of Subi’s latest contributors to the hipster vibe in the rapidly-evolving east end, will be adding extra zing to his Christmas celebrations this year.
He spent most of 2021, building up his specialty coffee shop in Hay Street’s cutting edge enclave which numbers Little Wings Corner Gallery and Accent cafe.
Opening Fornever during a pandemic lockdown was a roller coaster ride for the commerce student from Curtin University as he jumped through hoops to get it up and running.
This Christmas will be his first break in months and he’s crossing his fingers that his sister and his nephew will join them from Broome.
“Christmas usually revolves around a big breakfast and a smorgasbord of seafood later in the day,” he says. “And then a big nap.”
As for New Year’s celebrations there’s a block party afoot. Who said Subi isn’t cool again?
Alexander Miller is also in the mood for a knees-up having had a huge year staging hot ticket exhibitions, live music and art events and life-drawing soirees at the Corner Gallery.
You may have seen Miller in full flight, skateboarding down Rokeby Road to thread the needle through the Christmas tree in Forrest Walk. That’s just one of his favourite things about Christmas in Subi.
Miller will spend Christmas with the whole clan in Doubleview kicking off the day with a swim at the beach. He’s also keeping his fingers crossed that his sister and her family, currently in Tokyo, will be able to join them.
For Justin Magatelli, Christmas day means only a brief respite from hard work as he usually spends the afternoon preparing for the Boxing Day sales at LED Glow Illumination.
“I like to celebrate Christmas starting with friends gathering on Christmas Eve, followed by Christmas morning with family then work in the afternoon,” he says.
“On the menu there has to be something that will make leftovers to take care of lunches for a few days after Christmas,” he says.
Longtime Subi resident, Denise Cheir, needs no introduction to locals.
The marketing and fundraising director at Perron Institute is often seen walking her Brussels Griffon, Boy George, at Subiaco Common.
Born in Guernsey, she has fond memories of childhood Christmases at the beach and still loves a morning swim at Port Beach which is part of her Christmas ritual with dad David, and Boy George.
“I have a 20-year-old green plastic blow-up Christmas tree complete with baubles and a star,” she says. “Everyone hates it but I adore my relic! Lunch is always at 3pm – a huge turkey wrapped in bacon with chipolatas, stuffing, crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce followed by Christmas Pudding stuffed with Perth Mint replica threepences, brandy butter and custard.
Dad always pours whiskey over the Christmas pudding and sets fire to it.”
And they always have a toast of Veuve Clicquot to her late mum, Daph, who passed away in 2018.
Gerry & Renata Downing
Pupa Fast Nutrition
Gerry and Renata Downing’s house will ring out with cries of 'Geseënde Kersfees' on Christmas Day. That’s Merry Christmas in Afrikaans, one of the languages spoken in South Africa, where the couple spent many Christmases with their two daughters before moving to Australia 16 years ago.
They recently opened Pupa, their fast nutrition store selling high protein drinks in Subiaco.
They say South African festivities revolve around holidays at the beach, along with the usual carols and Christmas trees.
Says Renata: “We would spend the morning opening presents followed by a swim down at the beach, visit family and friends in the afternoon and have a formal Christmas dinner involving duck, roast beef or suckling pig in the late afternoon to escape the heat.
“Our favourite were home-cooked meats like gammon, beef tongue and corned beef.
“If the weather was really hot, we would opt out for a traditional South African braai (barbecue) which is the most popular way of enjoying the outdoors and exchange the heat of the kitchen stove for the heat of braai coals. Fond memories of whole flat chickens, deboned and butterflied legs of lamb still resonate with a nice starter mix of crayfish tails, lobster, mussels, prawns and line-fish.”
And if they have all been really well behaved there would be a visit from Sinterklaas. That’s the jolly, rotund guy in the red suit.