Want to know how to do Christmas in Australia like a local? Then you are going to need to understand our uniquely Australian Christmas traditions. We do things differently down here, and you know you want to be part of it!
Forget about snow and layers of warm clothes and people drinking hot chocolate beside crackly fireplaces. Celebrating Christmas in Australia is about board shorts and surf boards and BBQ’s and seafood. Christmas in Australia is uniquely different to celebrating Christmas anywhere else in the world. And it’s better than celebrating Christmas anywhere else in the world. Trust me when I tell you that having an Aussie Christmas is one of the best bucket list items you will do in your life.
Before you embark upon a festive frolic Down Under, it is important that you understand that us Aussies have uniquely Australian Christmas traditions. You must familiarize yourself with these if you plan on celebrating Christmas Down Under and fitting in with our delightful quirks.
Here you will find my top tips to understanding Australian Christmas traditions to ensure you fit in – just like a local! Thank me later.
Australia is hot at Christmas time
The most important things that you need to know about Christmas in Australia is that they ALL relate to the weather! Australians celebrate Christmas on 25th December, and down here in the southern hemisphere that means it is summer – and summer in Australia is hot. Really hot. You really need to understand that we don’t want to wear too many clothes or be indoors over the Christmas period.
How to fit in like an Aussie: You’re going to need to dress the part to fit in like a local. That means donning your best Christmas T-shirt and shorts or a light dress. You’ll likely find yourself around a beach or a pool and slip, slop, slapping too!
Secure the best beach BBQ
Whilst BBQ’s are a summer thing, they ramp up at Christmas time. We’ve all heard the iconic ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie.’ The tradition of BBQing our food over summer and particularly at Christmas is almost a national sport. Our beaches come with built-in BBQ’s (not even joking)! And it starts with securing the BBQ on the beach.
How to fit in like an Aussie: You’ll need to hit the beach earlier than your counterparts and secure that beach BBQ for your friends and family hours before you actually need it. If you have a grandfather in your ranks, this is usually his job. Send him out with a book to secure that spot and wait for the rest of the family!
Christmas lunch is not hot
Yes, you probably do Christmas lunch where you are from, and I bet it consists of roast meat and oven baked vegetables. Am I right? Christmas lunch in Australia is different and there are no awards for guessing why we have zero tolerance for turning our ovens on over the Christmas festivities.
How to fit in like an Aussie: Christmas lunch in Australia consists of seafood and salad and cold sides and cold meats (like ham and cold chicken and cold turkey) and seafood and cold desserts (like pavlova) and seafood. That photo above is my family’s Christmas lunch last year! Did I mention seafood? Make sure your Christmas menu is full of cold seafood, salads and meats and you’ll fit right in with us!
Lining up for fresh seafood
As you may have noticed above, seafood features prominently in our Christmas lunch menu. We love it. The fresher the better. Mostly prawns, but also Moreton Bay Bugs, fish, calamari and seafood bites/scallops. Yes, you can buy it from the supermarket a day or two prior to Christmas Day. But real Aussies are determined to get the best, freshest seafood on offer and that means lining up early!
How to fit in like an Aussie: THE Christmas tradition around Australia is to head down to your local trawler or seafood shop at 4am to line up for the freshest seafood you can take home to your family. These days, the shops will let you pre-order, but those trawlers are usually on a first come first serve basis. If you want to be part of this Christmas tradition, set your alarm! Your family will thank you!
It’s stone fruit season
It’s summer! And summer in Australia means stone fruit season – peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots. However, the most popular and iconic Australian fruits are mangoes and cherries. They’re the best and you’ll no doubt find them on most desserts on Christmas Day.
How to fit in like an Aussie: Bring all the stone fruit! That’s all you have to do. Just bring the stone fruit to any event you are invited to! Trust me on this one!
Aussies are a sociable bunch. With so much time spent “al fresco” – BBQing on the deck, splashing around in the pool, and gathering to watch sporting events projected onto sheets hung from Hills Hoists – we really get to know our neighbours! There’s a real community spirit in the suburbs and urban apartment blocks, so street parties are a BIG thing.
It doesn’t matter if you only visiting the area, staying with family, or Air BnB-ing, if there’s a street party happening in your street you will be invited.
Party preparations can begin weeks in advance. A formal application to council to close the street to through traffic, food and drink responsibilities allocated to households, and a designated dad assigned the role of Santa for the day all form part of the planning.
But street parties can just as often be spontaneous! All it takes is one family dragging the BBQ out the front, setting up a trestle table under a shade tent, and blasting a bit of Christmas music out of the speaker for everyone to pour out and make it a real party event.
So how does an Aussie Christmas street party look? Think slip’n’slide down the nature strip, street cricket with wheelie bin wickets, breakaway garage gatherings, and eventually everyone diving into the biggest pool on the street. Aussie street parties are about fun and community, so there’ll be food and drinks a-plenty and heaps of games for the kids. And you know what you are taking don’t you? Stone fruit!
Carols by Candlelight
Carols by Candleight has been an Aussie Christmas tradition since the 1930s. Our beautifully balmy December evenings are perfect for gathering in local parks for candlelit singalongs. Almost every local council in Australia, plus many churches, schools, and other organisations, will host a community Carols by Candlelight event this year. Many local events are free, some are gold coin fundraisers, and bigger events are ticketed in support of charities.
Carols by Candlelight events hosted by capital cities feature celebrity singers, and they are often televised so that everyone can join in, no matter where in the state they live. Aussie celebrities including Delta Goodrem, Hi-5, David Hobson, Denis Walter, Vanessa Amorosi, Anthony Callea, and Casey Donovan have all performed at Carols by Candlelight.
The big stage is set with elaborate decorations, live musicians, dancers, celebrity hosts, and a mix of professional performers, local school choirs, and entertainers. Santa usually drops in, too! Scan QR codes at the event to get a digital lyric sheet, raise your candle (real or battery) and sing your heart out!
How to fit in like an Aussie: To enjoy any one of the hundreds of Christmas carol events on around Australia, just like an Aussie, you only need 2 things.
- A picnic & blanket
- Your best singing voice
Christmas lights on our houses
Each year suburban houses and public buildings are decorated with coloured lights and displays and are open to the public for viewing. Thousands of homes across hundreds of suburbs participate and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. We pile our kids in the car and pull out a map or list of the lights near us and spend a few hours driving around and jumping out to look at the best ones.
How to fit in like an Aussie: You’ll need to add some lights to your home. Even a string of fairy lights to start will suffice. It’s one of my favourite Aussies traditions and we have done it every single year since the kids were born!
Watch Christmas movies
Who doesn’t love the nostalgia of Christmas movies? Those cold snowy scenes, people hustling through busy shopping centres wrapped up in scarves and woolly hats, enjoying hot chocolate and marshmallows gathered around a roaring log fire… It’s as far away from an Australian Christmas as can be, and that’s why we love them!
Aussies are unlikely to indulge in snowball fights or build snowmen (for us it’s water balloon fights and “sandmen” on the beach!) so Christmas movies give us a taste of traditional northern Christmases.
How to fit in like an Aussie: When it’s too hot to go outside, close the blinds, crank up the air-con, and put on a Christmas movie. Alternatively, head to the cinema and enjoy their air-conditioning – it’s included in the ticket price!
How to celebrate Gravy Day
On the 21 December, Australians celebrate Gravy Day. Gravy Day began with a 1996 song called ‘How To Make Gravy’ by popular Australian singer Paul Kelly. Its lyrics tell a fictional tale of a dead-beat dad in jail writing to his family (on 21 December) about longing to be with them at Christmas.
How to fit in like an Aussie: Play the song, learn the lyrics and share it with your friends both here and overseas. Celebrating Gravy Day is a thing, and you need to get on board!
Boxing Day Sales
Roll up, roll up…. Or more accurately line up, line up! Aussies love a bargain and every year on 26 December, stores clear out their holiday stocks, enticing shoppers with unbeatable deals on not just Christmas items, but fashion, electronics, and more. They open their doors on 26 December for the traditional Boxing Day sales. It can be a busy time in the stores with long queues and large crowds at discount racks.
How to fit in like an Aussie: Check your favourite stores’ websites to find out what they are discounting this Boxing Day. Make a list (and check it twice) and get there early for the start of the sale. Some items are limited, so you’ll want to be quick!
Boxing Day Test
After all the celebrations of the big day, us Aussies slow it down a little bit with one of our national sports – cricket! The Boxing Day Test, a cricket match held annually at Melbourne’s Cricket Ground is an annual tradition.
How to fit in like an Aussie: If you are in Melbourne then you must attend in the MCG in person to watch the test. If you are not in Melbourne, then you can catch it on TV. Eat Christmas Day leftovers, and relax after the huge month you’ve had celebrating Christmas in Australia.
Our unique traditions
Celebrating Christmas in Australia offers a vibrant blend of sun-soaked beaches, tantalizing seafood feasts, and warm-hearted community festivities. From beach BBQs and street parties to cherishing the iconic tunes of Paul Kelly, the Aussie Christmas experience is unlike any other. While the Northern Hemisphere wraps up in wintry charm, Down Under, we embrace the summer vibes, light up our homes, and revel in our unique traditions.
So, whether you’re preparing to secure that prime beach BBQ spot or belting out carols under a starry sky, immersing yourself in an Aussie Christmas promises memories that will last a lifetime. Remember, the Australian festive spirit is not just about the traditions, but the people who make them special. Embrace the season, the Aussie way!