I absolutely love spending Christmas in Australia! It’s hot and sunny, you get to create some fun new Australian Christmas traditions and you get to eat different Christmas food in Australia! The important thing to remember is that an Australian Christmas is very different to a Christmas in the northern hemisphere. Some people think different means bad, but you just need to stop comparing it and enjoy it for what it is! Christmas Day in Australia is so much more laid back and relaxed, so it means letting go of some of your old Christmas traditions and creating some brand new ones so you can fully embrace a perfect Australia Christmas!
Australia at Christmas is gloriously sunny and if you love the idea of being barefoot, spending your time at the beach or by the pool, eating BBQ food, sunbathing and being outside then Christmas in Australia is for you!
If you’ve been wondering how does Australia celebrate Christmas, let me tell you about how we experience Christmas in Australia.
Christmas traditions in Australia
Since moving here, we’ve created lots of traditions for Christmas in Australia. It was really important to me that we start our own Australian Christmas traditions because I wanted to make the experience here different to what we had in the UK on Christmas Day. For me, that has been key – making Christmas in Australia special on it’s own so we aren’t always looking at the things we’ve left behind but instead can focus on the things we’ve gained and we can enjoy Christmas Day in Australia rather than pining for Christmas Day with our families in the UK.
Our Australian traditions for Christmas include:
Christmas in Australia Santa photos
We get Santa photos taken at the same fantastic little studio every Christmas. They change the festive set design every year (and every year it blows us away as it is stunning), and their Santa is just fantastic (he chats away to the kids about Pokemon and Minecraft which they LOVE). It’s something we look forward to doing as a family and it’s probably my favourite of our Australian traditions at Christmas. It’s so much fun looking back on the different pics over the years and seeing how much the kids have grown. We’ve even been lucky enough to get my parents in some of them when they’ve been here for a visit – these are beautiful pictures of the kids with their grandparents that I will always treasure. In case you’re also in the Brisbane area and wondering where we go, it’s Rule of Thirds at Old Petrie Town but the slots sell out months in advance so start following them early and book in August as soon as they go on sale!
Old Petrie Town is a lovely place to hang out on an evening on the run up to Christmas as they often have music and carols and the kids get to play on the bouncy castles in the dark (check opening times but it’s usually open on Friday nights and Sunday mornings at this time of year). You can go to Old Petrie Town regardless of whether you’re getting your photos taken at the studio that is based there – it’s a really festive place to go and we go multiple times on the run up to Christmas (on Sunday daytimes in summer they often have water sprays on the bouncy castles to keep the kids cool so remember to pack towels!)
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Christmas carols by candlelight in Australia
It wouldn’t be Christmas in Australia without going to a carols by candlelight event. There are events taking place all across the suburbs with music, food trucks, rides and all kinds of entertainment and fun. Schools also often run Christmas carol events too. For me, I just love being able to walk around outside in the warm evening air hearing the Christmas tunes. It’s a totally different Christmas tradition to getting wrapped up in scarves and gloves like we would have in the UK! Some of the carols by candlelight events end with a beautiful firework display. It’s such a change to see fireworks without feeling like your fingers and toes are going to drop off as they felt in the UK on Bonfire Night!
Going on holiday around Christmas in Australia
We don’t go away over Christmas week itself (other than for days out to the beach), but we do go on a beach holiday for a week or two during the kids’ summer holidays on the run up to Christmas. It’s fun being away around Christmas – it makes Christmas more about spending time together at the beach than worrying about making it commercial or stressing over the Christmas menu or gifts. These holidays are usually spent barefoot and in swimwear and sarongs. I love how relaxing and low stress it feels.
Christmas light walks in Australia
As the evenings are so lovely and warm at Christmas time, we go out as a family to walk around our suburb all the time to look at the Christmas lights. It’s such a lovely Christmas in Australia tradition! A house near us usually really goes to town and they even have the real Mrs Claus outside singing to entertain the crowds! It’s pretty special (and then Santa joins her on Christmas Eve to hand out chocolates to the kids). Some people really go all in with their light displays.
We also often go for drives further afield to explore the best Christmas light displays around the area as there are so many amazing houses lit up. There are tours you can do, and you can even book a limo to drive you around them if you want to make it a really special Christmas tradition!
Santa does the rounds in Australia
When our kids were surf club Nippers, they used to have Santa come and visit them on the last session before Christmas. He would ride up the beach on a quad bike, barefoot and wearing board shorts, throwing candy canes behind him. The kids LOVED it and still remember it fondly as one of their early Australia Christmas traditions! There is also a Santa in a sleigh that gets pulled around the suburbs on the run up to Christmas too – again he is there to hand out sweets and candy canes to the kids and it’s just a fun thing to look out for (sometimes we don’t know he’s coming but we hear his bell so run out to the street!) I’m sure lots of areas in Australia have a Santa touring around like this – there is a big focus here on making the holidays exciting and fun for the kids.
Christmas Eve at home in Australia
In the UK, there was always so much to do and so many people to see on Christmas Eve. I LOVE Christmas Eve (actually even more than the big day itself if I’m being honest) but I never got to really enjoy it at home when I became an adult as I was always rushing around doing things, seeing people, planning, picking up last minute things…Now in Australia Christmas Eve is my precious family time. I don’t accept invitations. We stay home together. We bake. We watch Christmas movies. We listen to Christmas songs. We get excited about the big day. It’s a really special day together. I’m not sure I could go ever back to how it looked before this.
Christmas in Australia: Food!
In the UK, there was a big focus on Christmas food. Australian Christmas food is different to what we were used to but it’s also pretty amazing too! Australian Christmas food traditions involve eating simple foods together as a family – it feels so much more relaxed than Christmas Day dinner in the UK where I had to have lists of what to cook when and had complicated meal plans.
Australian Christmas meals are usually BBQ foods, salads, cold meats and seafood. A Turkey buffet/buffe is a precooked, smoked turkey crown to add to your cold meat platter and these are common in the supermarkets (so don’t get mixed up and buy this thinking it’s an uncooked turkey crown!).
You can still find a turkey to cook if you prefer – I tend to end up getting a whole turkey from the freezer section of the supermarket – I find there are a lot less options of turkeys here compared with the UK where I used to pre-order a crown from M&S or one of the supermarkets (as most people don’t cook a turkey, there aren’t shelves full of them here like there were in the UK).
We always have a full roast turkey dinner one day over Christmas (usually Boxing Day as then I don’t mind spending the day in the kitchen) – it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without turkey – but we have a BBQ and salads the rest of the time. I think that is a pretty good balance! But just remember: it is hot to cook and eat a full roast dinner at this time of the year!
When it comes to dessert for your Australian Christmas dinner, it has to be a pavlova (or ‘pav’ as it’s affectionately known here). We still have mince pies here, and my hubby still loves his Christmas pudding though.
In the UK, we’d buy tins and tins of chocolates on the run up to Christmas but here we don’t tend to get as many – when it’s hot you are outside by the pool rather than sitting inside in front of the fire stuffing your face!!! The important thing to remember is that chocolate needs to go in the fridge in Australia or it will melt into mush very quickly! The good news is we don’t end the Christmas holidays feeling like we’ve gained a stone from all of the treats (maybe just a few lbs instead!)
Christmas cookies in Australia
Baking Christmas cookies with the kids was something we started doing in the UK as a Christmas Eve tradition and it’s something we’ve continued in Australia. Now I also bake extra big batches on the run up to Christmas too and give them out to more places to spread the Christmas cheer (like to my hairdressers, to my husband’s workplace…to people who have to work through the holidays). We usually bake a mix of Anzac cookies and chocolate chip as Santa seems to like both!
Christmas decorations in Australia
Australian Christmas decorations are hilarious and so much fun. You’ve got all of the traditional Christmas decorations of baubles and tinsel, but here you’ve got lots of fun Aussie-themed Christmas decorations too like inflatable Santa wearing board shorts, and sharks wearing Santa hats. Every year, we buy ourselves a new decoration and one of my favourites is a hand-painted koala bauble (not as tacky as Santa wearing board shorts but still very Aussie!). I love embracing our new lives here with our decorations so we can celebrate Christmas Australia style!
Christmas Day in Australia
For us, Christmas Day in Australia is so different to Christmas Day in the UK. For a start, the Christmas dress code in Australia looks very different! We put on swimwear instead of posh clothes. Instead of heels or winter boots, I get to stay barefoot all day and I don’t put on any make up. (In the UK, I always used to make a real effort to get dressed up on Christmas Day but heels, make up and posh dresses just aren’t my thing so I always felt uncomfortable!)
My husband often works Christmas Day in Australia unfortunately (airports still operate, even on Christmas Day) so his shifts determine our exact plans but, ideally, we get up and have a cooked breakfast and then the kids open their gifts. We usually watch some Christmas things like The Snowman (nothing feels more like Christmas morning than watching that!) Next, it’s time to hit the pool to try out their new inflatables (they ALWAYS get plenty of new pool toys in their stocking!) Then we spend the day in and out of the water, building their presents and then cooking a BBQ and eating (if you prefer the idea of hitting the beach for Christmas Day in Australia, you might want to read my review of our Weber Baby Q1000 portable BBQ – it’s the perfect small BBQ to cook a feast for your day out!). Then it’s time for more swimming and we always have a night swim before bed. It’s pretty chilled out!
On Christmas evening, we Facetime various family members in the UK – sometimes it can involve hopping on three or four video chats but it’s so lovely seeing all of our families as we miss them (especially at Christmas time in Australia). It can feel a bit bittersweet as we can’t be there with them, but we try to appreciate how quiet and relaxed our Christmas is now. There are no expectations on us to be anywhere or do anything (and much as I loved spending Christmas in the UK it did often feel like we were being pulled from pillar to post to get around everybody and it felt quite stressful and exhausting at times trying to make everything perfect). We’ve released all of that stress and now Christmas is just about our little family unit and it’s about relaxing and enjoying this special time together and making memories.
Australia Christmas in July
As the weather cools down during our Australian winter, there is a fun Christmas in July tradition. Australia has such a great excuse to celebrate Christmas twice for those of us used to a cold Christmas! Lots of expats have a turkey dinner, pull Christmas crackers (which are known as bon bons in Australia!) and give little gifts for Christmas in July! Some restaurants even offer this celebration as a special event.
Christmas in July in Australia definitely isn’t as cold as Christmas in the UK, but it’s fun celebrating when the weather is a little cooler.
Enjoy your Christmas in Australia!
I love our Australian Christmas traditions. Food is important but as it’s so hot, you just don’t overeat in the same way. It’s just not as commercial – shops sell Christmas things but it’s not as big a deal as it was in the UK where it felt it was all commercial. Christmas in Australia combines two of my favourite things – a laid-back summer AND Christmas, what could be better?!
Don’t compare it to Christmas in another country. Christmas in Australia is so different. You won’t have your friends and family here, so instead make your Australian Christmas special by creating your own new Australian Christmas traditions.
Do you love Christmas in Australia? Do you still feel Christmassy in the same way?