As the Southern Hemisphere embraces the warmth of December, Australia undergoes a unique transformation. It’s not just a celebration, it is an invitation to experience the holiday season in a way that is as diverse and vibrant as the country itself. The customs are a curious mix of cherished global customs and homegrown traditions which make Christmas in Australia truly exceptional. Join us as we unwrap the delightful tapestry of Christmas traditions Down Under.
ALL ARE WELCOME DOWN UNDER
In the past few decades, Australia has become a highly diverse country with over 100 religions merging. The most prominent is Christianity which includes more than 50% of the citizens. And even though many Australians do not consider themselves “religious,” they are anxious to join in the excitement and celebrations.
Therefore, there are a few similarities between their holiday festivities and ours. First, Christmas decorations play a big part in celebrating the excitement of the season. for all. The “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree, will be adorned with lights, tinsel, and ornaments inside their homes. Others choose artificial ones and fake snow will be used to add to the spirit to all of them.
Also, Aussie children are particularly fond of finding treats and small gifts inside their stockings on Christmas Day. Likewise, Christmas in Australia brings colorful lights and inflatables on the outside of their homes. And the malls and shopping centers in Australia start decorating weeks – sometime months – in advance, just as we do.
SHOP ‘TIL THE BALL DROPS
Like many of the other coastal Christmas traditions that we’ve looked at, Australia’s Christmas markets are great for not only getting into the spirit, but for wonderful arts and crafts gifts. Once you conquer your shopping list, you can catch some of the many live performances -and of course – eat some delicious food! Some of the best Christmas markets in Australia include:
Noel Sydney, Royal Botanic Garden
Jingle All the Bay Market, Sandgate
Bazaar in Fremantle
Artisan Christmas Market in Port Melbourne
OH HOLY NIGHT
Similar to many countries in the Northern Hemisphere, families in Australia will attend special services, plays, or events in church during the days leading up to Christmas. There are services on Christmas Eve at midnight as well as early Christmas morning, drawing many in to sing Christmas carols, pray, and celebrate with friends and loved ones.
Interestingly, a very popular Australian tradition is called Carols by Candlelight. This event is typically held on Christmas Eve in most of the major cities including Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Queensland, New South Wales and many more. Young and old alike gather together singing carols and carrying candles. Tickets are sold for these events as there are professional singers and orchestras taking part. The ticket sales profits, along with donations, go to Vision Australia, a charity dedicated to people with blindness or poor vision.
Some of their songs will be familiar to us, such as “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells.” On the other hand, there are some unknown carols that sound quite intriguing, like “How to Make Gravy“ or “Six White Boomers.”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
One of the biggest differences in spending Christmas in Australia is where the celebrations are held. Because Christmas in Australia falls right in summer, many of their events follow a summery theme. This adds another beautiful facet to all the decorations. Just imagine the sight!
It is important to note that many will celebrate Christmas in Australia all over again – in the chilly month of July! Europeans especially feel that the holiday season should include mulled wine, cozy fires, and winter festivals. This newer practice is growing in popularity every year as Aussies want the best of both worlds!
In fact, this beach fanatic thinks a “summery” Christmas sounds like heaven! There are decorated Christmas trees set up along the beach to create the festive spirit. And because it’s the most wonderful time of the year, Aussies are able to spend the holiday on a breathtakingly beautiful sun-kissed beach!
Many Australians prefer to pass on the roasted turkey in the dining room and head to the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying picnics…It doesn’t get much better than that!
THROW THEM ON THE BARBIE
Along with the rest of the world, Christmas in Australia celebrations involve special food and beverages. As diverse as the people, so are their meals. Some prefer a “traditional” fare served in their homes, featuring roasted turkey with all the trimmings. Other families have a custom of making an early morning “Prawn Run” to purchase the freshest and biggest prawns for their feasts. And of course, many have their “beach barbies” every year. Whether it’s seafood or meat, all will be enjoyed while spending their day in the sun, sand, and surf with their loved ones.
Over the years, many European traditions have found their way Down Under. One of the most popular customs included family gingerbread making and baking days. Hours and hours of work – and much love – go into their favorite recipes. One in particular, Pavlova, is a light and heavenly meringue “cake” topped with fresh berries. This delectable dessert is named after Anna Pavlova, a famous Russian ballerina in the 1920’s, because her moves were “lighter than air.” Some dear Australian friends shared their cherished recipe, and we have permission to share it with you!
4 egg whites
2 teaspoons vinegar
8 Tablespoons boiling water
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons corn flour
Start by adding all ingredients into a mixer and beat on high speed for 10 minutes.
Next, put baking paper on a baking tray. Then, dump the Pavlova mixture onto baking paper and cook in preheated oven 350 F/180 C for 10 minutes, before reducing heat to 175 F / 80 C for 50 minutes.
Finally, remove it from the oven and allow to cool on the tray.
Crack the eggs into a cup one at a time and then put the whites into a mixer one at a time. If there is any sign of yolk in the egg white, throw white away and get another cup and start again.
Use the balloon whisk on the mixer. Make sure the bowl of the mixer is clean. A wipeout with a dry towel is a good idea as any contamination of the egg whites prevent them from getting stiff enough.
Put sugar in before pouring the water in, in case the eggs start to cook in the boiling water. The meringue will become really thick when beaten for 10 minutes.
Don’t be tempted to spread the meringue mixture too far on the tray. It will naturally spread a long way. If there is no indicator for the 80 C (175 F) mark, just reduce temperature to the lowest setting.
Pavlova should be crispy when cooked. ENJOY!
A LITTLE BEACH BUBBLY
With the variety of meals and desserts, there are usually some special beverages that go along with these meals. Beer is the preferred choice among men, especially for “Beach Barbies.” On the other hand, women prefer wine and champagne.
Santa Claus also visits Australia on December 25th in his red suit and thick white beard. However, it’s common to see hundreds of surfers, dressed in Santa suits, headed to Cocoa Beach to ride the waves. Local residents and tourists alike gather on the beach to watch the festive fun. As the sun sets, keep your eyes in the sky. Don’t be surprised to see Santa’s sleigh being pulled by kangaroos! By the time they get Down Under, they deserve a rest!
BACK TO THE BEACH ON BOXING DAY
Another opportunity for a beach barbeque is on Boxing Day, December 26. Like December 25, Boxing Day is a public holiday. It will be all-day affair with much beer drinking and cricket. Furthermore, street parties, family meals, and beach barbecues continue throughout the entire holiday season so they take advantage of every chance to get together.AUSTRALIA’S CHILDREN’S CHARITY
As with Christmas Day, Boxing Day also includes activities and events used as fundraisers. On Boxing Day, focus is turned to The Smith Family Charity. This national, independent charity is dedicated to “overcome educational inequality caused by poverty.” In this past year, an impressive total of 162,534 disadvantaged children and young students received support in their programs.
Another annual tradition is known as the “Magic of Myer Christmas Windows” in Myer Stores. Since 1956, these amazing displays have been enchanting families in the city of Melbourne. Certainly, it is a much-loved part of the holiday season.
Local resident, John Kerr, remembers admiring the elaborate windows as a child and telling his mother that he wanted to decorate them when he grew up. It’s been his job for 25 years now. Every holiday season he creates a new festive theme, often taking inspiration from different children’s books to encourage reading. He works with a group of artists, including sculptors and seamstresses, to develop the amazing animated characters in the scene. This year’s highlighted window theme is Bluey’s Christmas. More than 1.4 million people will visit this year.
In closing, spending Christmas in Australia is an extraordinary experience that blends cherished holiday traditions with the pleasure of celebrating on a white sandy beach. The summery-themed decorations, the melodic caroling, and memory-making family gatherings demonstrate that the warmth of the Australian summer is not just about their weather, but in the hearts of its people.
So as we bid farewell to another Christmas by the coast, let us carry the memories of sandy toes and laughter-filled nights, and be grateful for the sun-soaked traditions that make Christmas in Australia a truly unforgettable experience.
Please follow along on our 12 Days of Christmas:
Australia – Day 9 This Post