kids on an australian beach at christmas, christmas in australia.

Christmas in Australia

Ever wondered what Christmas in Australia is like?

For many people worldwide, Christmas means snow-filled streets, stockings hanging by open fires, hot Christmas dinners, warm eggnog, door-knocking carollers wrapped up in winter clothes and Santa Claus shimmering down a chimney to deliver his sack of gifts.

And whilst for those in the northern hemisphere, that is a pretty accurate description, here in the southern hemisphere Christmas and the traditions that come with it are decidedly different. For while Christmas is a wintery wonderland affair up north, here in Australia, it is approaching the middle of Summer. Rather than be wrapped in layers of woollen clothes, we Aussies prefer swimmers and a sun hat as we float lazily in our backyard pools.

If you want to know what an Aussie Christmas is like, we have compiled a little list below of what it means to celebrate Christmas in Australia.

Christmas Eve in Australia

christmas elf hanging from a light.

Like other parts of the world, Christmas Eve is often filled with different family traditions designed to celebrate what is the most wonderful time of the year!

  • Family gatherings
  • Christmas eve boxes or just a new pair of pj’s
  • A visit to church (some families even attend midnight mass)
  • A visit around to the Christmas Lights
  • Preparing carrots and milk (or sometimes a cold beer) for Santa
  • Saying goodbye to the Christmas elf (ours is called Steve)
  • Watching a Christmas movie

Australian Christmas Food

Family having Christmas Lunch in Australia, australian seafood, Christmas hats, bon bons.
Christmas lunch in Australia, with seafood, cold drinks and Santa hats.

Like in the northern hemisphere, come Christmas time, we celebrate with a big Christmas lunch or dinner surrounded by our family and friends. Christmas is a public holiday in Australia, meaning hardly anything is open on Christmas day. Some venues will host Christmas lunch, although they tend to book out quickly, hence the usual at-home Christmas feast!

Christmas tables are laid with Christmas crackers, and centrepieces and heads are adorned with colourful paper cracker crowns (and the odd Santa hat). But things can look a bit different regarding the actual spread on the table.

As the temperature in Australia is so warm in December (sometimes hitting 40 degrees or more (104F), the meat and seafood dishes served are often cold. Hams are large, but so are bowls overflowing with chilled prawns, cold salads, and seafood cocktails.

Of course, the Aussie Christmas BBQ tradition is also alive and well. “Throwing a shrimp on the barbie”, (we call them prawns) is not too far off the truth, as well as some other Christmas goodies like Moreton Bay Bugs and other Australian seafood.

Christmas breakfast might consist of spreads of pancakes, croissants, mimosas and hot chocolate for the kids, some families also head straight into lunch.

Christmas Dinner might consist of a cold spread. Still, many families also opt for a traditional cooked Christmas Dinner of traditional roast turkey, mince pies and hot Christmas pudding with custard.

For Christmas dessert, Australians love a pavlova, fruit salad, chocolate balls, ice cream cakes, cold trifle and maybe some Christmas pudding. If we are honest, a freezer full of ice blocks is usually a must-have as well!

It must be said that Australia is a multi-cultural country. 1 in 4 Australians were born in a different country, meaning every Christmas celebration is different. You will find such a wonderful blend of traditions from across from the world from German Traditions like Ginger Bread to the Chinese Tradition of hanging brightly coloured paper lanterns. Australia is a beautiful country of many people from all places brought together.

Aussie Christmas Day Activities

backyard cricket game in Australia.
A Christmas Day backyard cricket game

Christmas down under is usually spent celebrating with family and friends around an indoor or backyard table, followed by several different activities. Here are some Christmas games and activities you might find in an Australian home.

  • Swimming
  • Running through sprinklers (depending on water restrictions at the time)
  • Going to the beach or local creek
  • Board games
  • Backyard cricket
  • Lie in the aircon to escape the hot weather (it is a popular activity!)

Australian Christmas Trees

Granite Belt Christmas Tree Farm Australia, a sign advertising a christmas tree farm sitting above an old car that has flowers growing in it.
A Christmas Tree farm in Southern Queensland

Christmas would not be complete without a Christmas Tree. Plastic trees are still the most popular choice in Australia, but Christmas Tree Farms are popping up everywhere. In addition, Australians can often purchase Christmas Trees at local nurseries where native pines are popular. Some families even stray from the traditional pine look and decorate an Australian Christmas Bush or another native Australian tree.

Christmas Trees mainly go up on December 1st but many families sit outside this tradition and put them up early (or late). Christmas trees are usually brought down after the New Year, sometimes on the 12th Day of Christmas Jan 6 or just when it suits each family.

Australians decorate their trees with Christmas decorations, from traditional baubles and tinsel to more Aussie-themed Australian animals.

Local Christmas Lights and Decorations

kids walking through christmas lights in australia
Christmas Lights in Australia

We love covering our homes with festive light displays inside and out in Australia. There are even annual competitions to see which houses produce the most festive

displays, with some homes going pretty crazy with their set-up (think animated projections, fake snow, ride-on sleighs etc.).

One much-loved tradition for Australians in the lead-up to Christmas is putting the family in the car after dinner and driving around the neighbourhood to check out the local light displays. Quite often, this means finding out the main streets doing displays, parking the car a block or two away, and walking with the masses up and down the streets.

Most house owners will pop a chair on their front lawn and greet/chat with those coming through their yards, often with a beer or wine in their hand as they chat with other neighbours. It is common for houses to enter local light competitions to win prizes and raise money for charities via donations.

City Christmas Events

christmas market in australia.

Most towns and cities in Australia have their specific festive calendar, but they all usually have a special ‘lighting of the Christmas tree’ event. This is generally at the end of November or the start of December and is a big event where locals all come to see the lights turned on a massive central Christmas tree, thus marking the official opening of the festive season. Christmas markets are common across all cities in Australia.

Streets are often decorated, shop fronts containing Christmas displays come to life and many different Christmas light and decorative installations pop up around the city. Animated projections on historic buildings and large structures are also usually on the agenda. We also have an article about Australia’s main Christmas lights events.

Aussie Christmas Carols

Whilst door-to-door Christmas Carollers are not a thing in Australia, events involving Christmas Carols by Candlelight are. In the lead-up to Christmas, these can be found most weekends at local parks, bowls (as opposed to bowling) clubs, schools, churches and major city events.

With our warm, balmy summer nights, laying a picnic blanket on the lawns while the carols rain out over the night is a much-loved family event. Packing a picnic and sharing a drink with loved ones as kids run freely on the grass clasping small electric light-up candles is one of the festive season’s highlights for many.

Australian Christmas Traditions

Being a multi-cultural country, Christmas is celebrated differently in many households. Even so, there are some clear themes that Australians seem to hold dear and some new traditions that have come about in the last decade or so.

  • Most Australians put out Christmas carrots (for the reindeer) and milk or a cold drink (for Santa) the night before Christmas.
  • With no chimneys or raging fires (except sometimes fake ones projected from TV screens on walls), stockings tend to be hung from walls, shelves, mantles – or are laid beneath Christmas trees.
  • Christmas morning usually involves families waking to Santa having arrived (not sure how he gets in with no chimney most of the time) and gifts being opened before heading out to their annual family Christmas event.
  • Advent calendars are a common family tradition to count down the month of December leading up to Christmas.
  • Christmas Markets begin in mid-Nov and run right up until Christmas. This allows Australian families to support local growers and makers while they do their Christmas shopping.
  • Christmas in July is another growing Christmas tradition for a few reasons. It is a chance for those with Northern Hemisphere traditions to enjoy an (almost) traditional Christmas experience with (sort of) cold weather (depending on where you are).
  • Fresh seafood is a common tradition.. Popular seafood shops see people lined up for miles to get their Australian seafood for Christmas day.

Australian Boxing Day Traditions

Post-Christmas celebrations are almost as big as the day itself, with Boxing Day bringing a lot of traditional fanfare of its own and continued celebrations with extended family and friends. The best things about boxing day is, it is also an official holiday and with the bonus of less pressure than Christmas day!

Every year on the 26th December, all the shops open and crowds cram in for the annual Boxing Day sales. Some people are even known to do their Christmas shopping on that day to make the most of all the incredible bargains.

The famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race is also held every year in Australia on Boxing Day.

And finally, another sporting tradition is the Boxing Day Cricket Test Match. It starts every year on Boxing Day and is held at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).

For many Australian families, boxing day is simply about relaxing, eating leftovers and relishing in the good fortune of living in the best country in the world.

Your questions about Christmas in Australia!

Are there any popular Australian Christmas Movies?

For whatever reason, there are hardly any Australia Movies centres around the Christmas season. Some that come to mind (and they aren’t even that well known) are, A Moody Christmas, A Sunburnt Christmas and Crackers. We haven’t seen any of them or heard of any of them, prior to writing this article. You should watch at your own risk (you will find them on streaming services like Stan and Netflix)

Does everyone go to Bondi Beach on Christmas Day?

It might seem a weird questions to us Australians, but for some people around the world, Bondi Beach is the only Australian beach they have heard of. Did you know there are over 12,000 beaches in Australia? All along the Australian coastline, many Aussie families like to celebrate Christmas at the beach, if not on Christmas Day, over the extended holiday season.

What is a must do for a first Christmas in Australia?

So many things but if we had to sum it all up we would say; Eat a pavlova, go the beach, watch a cricket match, put some prawns on the barbie and play some Australian-themed monopoly to finish the day.

Is it possible to have a white Christmas in Australia?

In theory, it is possible to have a white Christmas in Australia. It is probably unlikely to snow but at high enough altitudes, you will find snow on the Victorian Alps and in Tasmania. The best thing you can do if you come to Australia during Christmas is to embrace the heat!

Is it always hot on Christmas Day in Australia?

Not always. Australia is a big country that can be cold in some parts of Southern Australia on Christmas Day. That said, it is summer and average temperatures are unlikely to give anyone from Alaska a feeling of being at home.

When do Australians celebrate Christmas?

Christmas in Australia is on the 25th of December like everywhere else. Christmas is the time of year when school kids have their most significant school break. 6 weeks minimum is the amount of time that Aussie school kids have for their “Summer holidays”, usually beginning in mid-December and concluding somewhere towards the end of January.

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Ngaire has lived in Australia her whole life, raising her three kids in Brisbane. She has qualifications in journalism, PR and early childhood teaching and spends what spare time she has advocating for Australian wildlife.

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