Christmas in Australia is very different from many parts of the world, mainly because it is the middle of summer so it’s boiling hot rather than being cosy and snowy. Due to our British history we have taken many traditions from how European’s celebrate Christmas, while also making our own traditions influenced by our multicultural society and unique environment. While every family unit has their own specific Christmas traditions, these are some of the things I’ve typically experienced at this time of year.
While the majority of people do hold celebrations on the 25th of December, it is not uncommon for families to host their main event or meal on Christmas Eve or Boxing day instead. Most workplaces will hold a Christmas party for staff and these are regularly held in early December and sometimes even in November as people are usually on leave towards the end of the year. Schools close in mid December for their summer holidays so many families are on break from late December to the end of January making it common to travel around and visit family and friends throughout this whole period.
The weather difference of course has a huge influence on what activities we do for the holidays. It is not uncommon to have a Christmas day reach over 40 degrees Celsius, so most celebrations involve outdoor barbecues, picnics, days at the beach or by the pool. In the lead up to Christmas there will be outdoor carol events in local parks, and in Perth there is a Christmas Parade. Children are often gifted bikes, pool toys and trampolines so they can have fun outdoors over the break. This is also a time centered around relaxing, putting your feet up and having a nap. There is a cricket match played on Boxing Day but otherwise there are very few traditional TV programs or Christmas specials like in the UK.
This warm weather also influences what types of meals we eat. It is common to celebrate with cold meats and salads instead of having a roast meal, or even if the mains are served hot there will be cold side-dishes and desserts rather than warm ones. Ham is a lot more common for a main than turkey or chicken, and seafood also features strongly in many people’s homes with prawn cocktails and oysters being very popular. Having this main meal as a lunch is a lot more common than having a dinner.
The common Christmas dessert is pavlova which is meringue with fruits on top, although I don’t personally like them. Other treats at Christmas time include gingerbread men, white christmas, trifle, fruit cake, mince pies or rum balls. Cherries and other summer fruits also come into season around December and make a popular treat.
Typical Christmas drinks like hot chocolate and eggnog are not that big in Australia, with most people choosing to have a cold beer, soft drink or cocktail. Having leftovers is expected and forms part of the ‘sit back and relax’ vibe that Christmas brings as usually nobody needs to cook for a few days.
Santa and gifts
One thing that is not different from our European background is that children mainly believe in Santa Claus from the North Pole who wears a red and white woolly outfit and delivers gifts with his reindeer. Santa delivering the gifts for Christmas morning is a very solid tradition, with many children leaving out milk and cookies for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.
Children usually leave out stockings to be filled and generally adults don’t receive many gifts although that depends on the family. More common for adults is a ‘Secret Santa’ where family, friends or a group of colleagues will draw a name out of a hat and buy one gift for the person on behalf of the rest of the group. Gifting of food baskets, chocolates and handmade treats is also very common as well as gift cards.
Most people will put up a Christmas tree and some tinsel inside their homes, however I would say the majority of Australian’s don’t go all out with decor. There will usually be a handful of homes in each street that put out Christmas lights, along with blow up figurines and statues. It can be fun to drive around the neighbourhood the week before Christmas looking at the displays, with some very well known houses going all out each year. Most local governments will put up Christmas theme signage or lights along main roads.
Australian’s do embrace dressing up for the ‘silly season’ and will often wear Christmas theme shirts, pyjamas, earrings etc. Most families have Christmas bon-bons with their meal which contain a silly paper hat, a little toy and a really lame joke.
Unless it falls on a weekend, Christmas Eve is a normal work day so there are always a lot of people shopping for last minute gifts and ingredients, it is well known that you only go to the shops in the days before Christmas if you really have to!
Christmas day is a public holiday so many people have the day off and many shops are closed aside from local corner stores. Boxing Day is also a public holiday, but many shops are open to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales. These are equivalent to America’s Black Friday sales and people often spend their
How do you spend Christmas in your home?