Metrosideros Christmas Bush in Australia

Christmas Celebrations in Australia

Every country has different traditions and celebrations around Christmas. Whether you’re visiting Australia during the holiday, have friends or family celebrating Christmas in Australia, or are just curious, learning about how different cultures celebrate the same holiday can be very interesting.

The Christmas Season

If you’re from the United States, it might be a little confusing that Christmas in Australia takes place during the summer. That’s because the temperatures and seasons on the other side of the world are flipped, so when it is winter in the United States, it’s summer in Australia.

Santa's Sleigh being pulled by Kangaroo by David on Flickr
Santa’s Sleigh being pulled by Kangaroo

Christmas is very different because of this. In the United States, Christmas decorations and festivities are all based around the fact that it is winter. Even states that stay warm during the winter use snow as decoration. However, even though it is still celebrated on December 25th, Australian Christmas is a summer holiday.

Australian Christmas Card Featuring the Christmas Bush-Merry Christmas 2019. By Paul Hurtado. By Paul Hurtado on Flickr
Australian Christmas Card Featuring the Christmas Bush

Decorations

Australians use classic Christmas decorations such as Christmas trees and poinsettia flowers. A decoration specific to Australia is the Christmas Bush, which is a small tree with white flowers, which turn red in the summer around Christmastime.

The outsides of houses are decorated with wreaths on the front doors, ribbon, and outdoor string lights around fences, walls, and planter boxes.

Australian Christmas Decorations -Clayton Wesley Uniting Church (Norwood, South Australia) - 2012 Christmas Windows by Mertie on Flickr
Australian Christmas Decorations

Traditions

Caroling is a popular tradition, where Australians go singing on Christmas Eve. State capitals have Carols by Candlelight, where famous singers might lead a crowd in singing carols.

Going around to see different houses’ Christmas decorations is also popular. Often neighborhoods will have friendly competitions about who has the best outdoor decorations. By going around to all of the houses at night, you can see the different lights of the displays, and it’s a fun way to spend the nights leading to Christmas.

Sometimes, towns host fireworks, festivals, Christmas pageants, and parades. There are usually a lot of different things to do to celebrate Christmas that are put on by the town. Smaller groups such as neighborhoods might also host public Christmas celebrations.

In Melbourne, you might go to see the Myer Christmas Windows. These are window displays set up in the department store Myer, and each display tells a different Christmas story. People line up around the outside of the building to look into window displays.

Food Traditions

In Australia, people more often celebrate a Christmas meal at lunchtime, rather than dinner. Most often, Australians eat seafood during their Christmas meals. If meat is eaten, they are usually cold meats such as turkey or ham, with a fruity glaze on top. Meals are often eaten outside, as this is a summer holiday.

Deserts are also typically fruity and cold. Often fresh fruit is served after dinner. There are also puddings with cold custard, mince pie, and pavlova with fresh fruit.

Christmas Day

Of course, Santa visits and brings presents for children. However, this might not look the same as Santa in the United States. In Australia, Santa is often depicted with kangaroos instead of reindeers. Instead of having cold weather clothes, Santa dresses for the summer. And, instead of milk and cookies, it’s traditional to leave some cake and beer for Santa to snack on.

Presents are exchanged between families and friends on Christmas Day. This day is usually spent with people who you are close to, rather than at large celebrations that are held in the town.

Christmas Party by Sami Keinänen on Flickr
Outdoor Christmas Party in Australia

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. On this day, celebrations continue. Usually, it is celebrated with family, whether that’s hosting a barbecue or going to the beach, or simply enjoying time outside with family. Boxing Day is a continuation of Christmas celebrations.