Christmas is celebrated in Australia in many similar ways to the UK but with one obvious difference, it is summer! Therefore, although a lot of the British traditions are celebrated, the surroundings mean that Christmas has an all together different feel in Australia.
First of all, many families opt to go for a picnic, go camping or go to the beach for a BBQ on Christmas Day. Although some families will have turkey, the majority will have other foods such as steak, prawns and cold salads due to the hot weather.
Thousands of people turn up at Bondi Beach in Sydney every year where there is a great atmosphere. Santa usually arrives on a surf board or a boat, sweltering in a heavy Father Christmas red and white suit! Outdoor activities are often played such as beach cricket and beach snowman building (i.e. sandmen!).
An Australian tradition, started in 1937, is carols by Candlelight. This occurs in all of the major cities and towns in Australia, the biggest concerts being in Melbourne (where the tradition began) at the Myer Music Bowl and at the Domain in Sydney. It is an outdoor concert whereby people bring blankets, light candles and sing familiar Christmas carols including some Australian Christmas carols. Other musical events occur at this time in the country for example performances of Handel’s Messiah. In particular, this piece is performed at the Sydney Town Hall, an annual tradition going back 50 years.
In terms of Christmas decorations, Christmas tresses are displayed and Christmas lights put up. In fact, an Australian resident currently holds the Guinness World Record for Christmas Tree Light display at their home! The Richards’ home in Canberra recently reclaimed their award, with over half a million lights in their display. Many Australian plants are also in bloom at this time of year and over the years have now become a key part of decorations for Australians. Plants used for decoration at this time of year include Christmas Belles, Christmas Bush and the Christmas Orchid.
As Christmas Day falls in the school holidays, many families take this opportunity to go on holiday and so spend Christmas outside of their home.
As Australia is a multi-cultural society, other religious festivals are also celebrated. Aboriginal celebrations also take place including the celebration of seasonal changes.
Boxing Day is another public holiday and Aussies may watch the Boxing Day Test, held at the MCG. Boxing Day also marks the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race which begins from Sydney Harbour.
If you are moving to Australia from the UK, you can look forward to experiencing a different type of Christmas and will still be able to enjoy celebrating many traditions common in the Northern Hemisphere.