Christmas in Australia: 10 Popular Traditions Down Under

If you’re new to Australia and wondering what Christmas is like in your new homeland, you’ve come to the right place.

When you think of Christmas, you most likely associate it with delicate soft snow and hot chocolate by the fire while it’s freezing outside.

Christmas in Australia, though, couldn’t be more different. Keep reading this guide created by our team here at Remitly to find out everything there is to know about Christmas in the land down under.

Christmas in Australia - city view

When Does Christmas Begin in Australia?

In Australia, Christmas preparations start in November and go into full swing in December. Unlike in the northern hemisphere, Christmas in Australia falls right in the middle of summer when the days are filled with sun and warmth.

As a result, Christmas events in Australia often have a summer theme. Barbecues are popular among Australians and, in some instances, may replace a traditional Christmas dinner.

Christmas Day takes place on December 25 during the summer holidays. The festivities don’t stop until the end of the month, as Australians value their loved ones and will find any excuse to celebrate with them.

In Australia, Christmas Day is a public holiday. Many businesses close so that their employees can spend Christmas with their families. Although many families begin celebrating on Christmas Eve, December 24, the day isn’t a national holiday, so businesses usually remain open.

Who celebrates Christmas in Australia?

Australia is a highly diverse country, comprising more than 100 merging religions. Christianity is the most prominent one, currently observed by 51% of its citizens.

British and Irish immigrants played a large role in the development of churches, schools, and orphanages in the early 19th century.

Since the 1970s, there has been a steady increase in religions not associated with Christianity, and many Australians nowadays do not consider themselves religious.

When it comes to Christmas traditions, it’s common to find those who don’t identify as Christians still joining in the hype and celebration.

10 popular Australian Christmas traditions

1. Sing along with Carols by Candlelight

A popular tradition in Australia is Carols by Candlelight, which occurs annually on Christmas Eve in major cities like Sydney, New South Wales; Brisbane, Queensland; Perth, Western Australia; Adelaide, South Australia; Hobart, Tasmania; and Canberra, Australia Capital Territory.

This joyful event brings together people of all ages to unite outside, preferably in a park. They hold candles and sing along to Christmas carols performed by singers and/or an orchestra.

Donations and funds gathered from tickets and candle sales go to Vision Australia, an organization dedicated to people with blindness and low vision.

Some popular Christmas carols and songs in Australia include:

  • All I Want for Christmas Is You
  • Australian 12 Days of Christmas
  • How to Make Gravy
  • Jingle Bells
  • Oh Christmas
  • Six White Boomers
  • The Silver Stars Are in the Sky
  • White Christmas

2. Enjoy Christmas parties and celebrations

In the weeks leading up to Christmas (and even the days following Christmas Day), it’s typical for many parties and celebrations to take place.

Christmas gatherings of all sorts, including work parties and personal celebrations, are increasingly popular. Guests are expected to bring a plate of food and/or drinks as a common custom.

There is an immense increase in food and alcohol consumed at parties and gatherings over the Christmas holidays. Australian people will also take the opportunity to exchange gifts and Christmas cards during these festivities.

3. Attend church

On Christmas Eve, many Australian families attend church to pray and sing carols. Many events, readings, plays, and ceremonies take place in Christian and Catholic churches in the days leading up to Christmas. Like in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and the rest of the world, some Christmas Eve church services occur at midnight to welcome Christmas morning.

4. Santa is coming to town!

The 25th day of December, the official day of Christmas in Australia, is the day that Santa Claus visits children around the country. Australian families leave out cookies the night before for Santa as a thank-you for delivering their presents and filling their stockings with all kinds of surprises. Some people also put out carrots for Santa’s reindeer.

Santa Claus in Australia often looks similar to how he does in other countries with his red suit and thick white beard. However, you may also see a fun twist on the figure — surfing Santa.

Each year on Christmas Eve, hundreds of surfers head to Cocoa Beach in Santa suits and ride the waves. It’s a fun way of celebrating Christmas, and the event draws both locals and tourists who gather on the beach to watch the fun.

5. Celebrate Boxing Day, too.

Boxing Day takes place on the 26th of December and has British origins. In Australia, it is a public holiday and a day when many special events take place.

One of the biggest special events is the Boxing Day test match. It’s a largely significant cricket match that takes place on the Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

Another important Boxing Day tradition is the Sydney to Hobart yacht race broadcast on TV stations across the country. The event attracts more viewers than any other yacht race in the world.

For those who love a bargain, the Boxing Day shopping sales begin this day and include excess items sold at heavily reduced prices.

6. Party at Bondi Beach.

Thousands of people flock to Bondi Beach in Sydney in costumes each year to celebrate Christmas. Many people wear Santa hats and celebrate the day with plenty of food, sport, and surfing.

Christmas trees are set up along the beach to help set the mood for a festive day and the most wonderful time of year.

Even outside of Bondi Beach, many people spend Christmas Day at the beach. Since Christmas falls during the summer, it’s a great time to sunbathe, swim, and enjoy a picnic Christmas lunch of cold meats and refreshing ice-cold beer on the shore.

Christmas in Australia - beach

7. Play a game of cricket.

A game of cricket isn’t just played in a match by professionals. Many Australian families also enjoy playing it against their friends and family members.

Australians will play the game before or after their Christmas feast.

8. Decorate your house.

Christmas decorations play a huge part in celebrating the joy and excitement of the festive season.

A Christmas tree is set up in the home and decorated with ornaments, candy canes, tinsel, and Christmas lights. Some Australians love live Christmas trees, while others opt for artificial ones. They may finish off both types of Christmas trees with fake snow in the spirit of the Christmas season.

It’s common for presents to be placed under the tree in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In addition, Australians love to put decorations around the house in various areas and spots.

Christmas stockings are also extremely common, often reserved for children. On Christmas Day, little ones enjoy finding sweet treats and smaller gifts left inside them by Santa Claus.

For the outside of the home, it’s the norm to hang a garland on the door. A lot of Australians enjoy decorating the front porch and garden with colorful lights and inflatables.

Malls, restaurants, hotels, and venues of all kinds get into the swing of Christmas by decorating weeks, sometimes even months, in advance.

9. Enjoy your feast outside.

Food and drink play a very significant part in Australian Christmas festivities.

For the main meal on Christmas day, people may serve:

  • Roast turkey and all the trimmings like potatoes, stuffing, and parsnips
  • Fresh seafood like prawns
  • Salad
  • Barbecued fare

Beer is a popular choice among men to wash down that roast turkey, while women typically opt for wine and champagne.

Since the weather is so good this time of the year, Australians like to sit outside in the warm sun while enjoying lunch with their loved ones.

Spending hours in the kitchen making gingerbread men and other baked goods is a common practice during Christmas and is enjoyed wholeheartedly by the entire family.

10. Visit a Christmas market

Consider visiting a Christmas market to get into the spirit of Christmas in Australia. These open-air festivals typically begin in early December and feature booths selling arts and crafts. In addition to getting your Christmas shopping done, you can eat delicious foods and enjoy live performances at the markets.

Some of the top Christmas markets in Australia include:

11. Watch Christmas movies

A fun yet simple way to celebrate Christmas in Australia is to gather the family and watch festive movies. TV stations in Australia begin airing favorites in December, and you can also stream popular films from various services.

Some popular holiday movies to get you in the spirit of Australian Christmas include:

  • A Christmas Princess
  • A Moody Christmas
  • A Sunburnt Christmas
  • Christmas Inheritance
  • Christmas on the Farm
  • Crackers
  • Da Kath & Kim Code
  • Holidate
  • Kiwi Christmas

Merry Christmas, Australia!

Now that you’re familiar with some of Australia’s most popular Christmas traditions, you’re ready to get into the spirit of the holidays. On behalf of all of us — Merry Christmas!

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