When you celebrate Christmas in Australia… baby it’s not cold outside! Down under, Christmas Day falls in the peak of summer where the days are long and, generally, hot. Of course we are aware of all the classic White Christmas traditions, how could we not be? They’re the centre of almost every Christmas movie in the Netflix catalogue, but many of them simply aren’t possible to replicate in Australia. So, with the lack of snow, hot chocolates by the fireplace and lovers under the mistletoe, some of the most popular Australian Christmas traditions might surprise you!
Australian Christmas Traditions
As far as Christmas traditions go, lots of celebrations in Australia are the same as in the Northern hemisphere. Many households string up Christmas lights, decorate a tree, and put treats out on Christmas Eve for the big man himself. The key difference most likely comes down to our stunning summer weather – naturally, it’s hard to resist heading down to the beach, sipping on a cold beer, and ripping the heads off an excessive amount of prawns!
A Christmas feast
Whether it’s a BBQ by the beach, or a picnic with your loved ones, Christmas in Australia is more of a casual affair. Most Aussies choose to swap the traditional roast turkey for a Christmas ham, and fresh seafood (specifically prawns) takes pride of place on many festive banquets.
It makes sense that Australians opt for a light and refreshing dessert option to end their Christmas feast. Pavlova, or simply ‘Pav’, is a meringue dessert that’s crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside and topped with cream and fresh seasonal fruit like kiwi fruits, berries, and passionfruit. Other popular favourites include the classic trifle, and your Uncle Barry’s Christmas pudding that sways a bit from the recipe with a littleeeeee too much rum.
In the spirit of keeping things merry and bright, Christmas Day in Australia wouldn’t be complete without a few beers or your beveragino of choice.
Sun, sand, and surf
It’s practically in our blood to love the outdoors, so naturally Aussies try to make the most of the multiple public holidays over Christmas and New Years to take a proper break and go… camping! Going camping for Christmas is a treasured tradition for many families, and with so many incredible spots to discover around Australia, why wouldn’t you?
Another outdoor activity that has made its way into Christmas traditions around the country is a good old game of backyard cricket. It certainly is one way to bring the whole crew together, and there’s nothing quite like running around the backyard, thongs flopping at your heels, yelling at your Aunt Suz to keep her eye on the ball. Backyard not big enough? Why not head down to the beach!
Speaking of the beach, of course many Australians love to spend their Christmas Day down by the water, either going for a dip to cool off or bringing their board down for a play in the surf. In fact, back in 2015, a group of Australian locals broke the world record for the largest Santa surf lesson. 320 Sydney-siders, all dressed in Santa outfits, gathered on the iconic Bondi Beach and raised thousands of dollars for surfing and mental health charity, OneWave.
Local hero, Santa Claus
From the bush to the ‘burbs, in many neighbourhoods across Australia there’s a good chance on Christmas morning you’ll catch Santa greeting all the good boys and girls from the back of a fire truck. When you hear the sweet sound of Christmas carols jingling from a ways up the street, Aussies stop what they’re doing to go wave at Mr Claus as he throws lollies and other small treats out to his adoring fans. Don’t ask us where this tradition started, but it’s a great example of the sense of community felt throughout Australia.
What can you expect from a typical Aussie Christmas?
Australia is such a multicultural country, and each family/household is so diverse, that it’s really kind of hard to generalise about what Christmas in Australia should be like. If you’d like a totally not all-inclusive insight into what to expect, enjoy this summary from a true-blue young Aussie, born and raised on the South Coast of NSW (yes, super close to the beach, #blessed).
The countdown begins! Christmas Eve is a great night to check out the best Christmas lights around your neighbourhood, or if you’d prefer to cuddle up at home, the Carols by Candlelight are streamed live from Melbourne with performances from chart-topping Aussie musos.
Merry Christmas! The morning is usually spent opening presents, starting early on the festive food, blasting Christmas carols (we love a bit of Bublé and Mariah as much as the rest of the world), and catching up with relatives you haven’t seen since last Christmas.
Forget the traditional Christmas dinner, one major difference between Christmas in Australia and the celebrations of other countries is that we 👏 are 👏 lunch 👏 people 👏.
At the risk of sounding too Aussie, chuck those prawns on the barbie and get sizzlin’. Wherever you’ve decided to enjoy the day, settle in for a feast of cold meats, a variety of salads, carby bread rolls, desserts, and a steady flow of cold beers.
By now, the food coma is probably hitting, and you deserve an afternoon nap (or at least a bit of chill time watching more Christmas movies). If you’ve still got the energy, now’s the time for a game of backyard cricket with your loved ones – just try not to get too competitive if little 7yo cousin Max is on the field too. If you’re lucky enough to be by the beach, or celebrating at a house with a pool, it would be rude not to go for a splash and make the most of the stellar summer sun.
If you can fit any more food in your stomach, you’ll likely be eating leftovers for Christmas dinner (and for lunch on Boxing Day, and possibly a few more meals after that). Tuck yourself in and get ready to enjoy tomorrows Boxing Day public holiday and recover from the excitement of a wonderful, not-so-white Christmas in Australia.