christmas tree
christmas tree
Christmas tree. Photo courtesy of joeymc86.

Most of the world dreams of the Christmas season as a white wonderland, building snowmen, drinking hot chocolate and eggnog, and getting visits from a certain Claus in a red coat; however, for those living in the southern hemisphere, the month of December falls during the summer season and Saint Nick is welcomed not with snow and ice, but with beachside barbeques and plenty of AC.

Despite the differing temperatures, Christmas in Australia is celebrated to the same extent as in most of the northwest.

Many of Australia’s original immigrants came from Britain and Ireland, and they refused to pull a Scrooge and abandon the season’s good cheer — and presents — despite the sweltering heat.

The Australia Post still sees an over 20% swell in postage from all the Christmas cards getting sent around the country, and Christmas trees still take center stage beside chimneys and fireplaces, awaiting a visit from Father Christmas.

shrimp on the barbie
Grilled prawns are a typical Christmas dish in Australia. Photo courtesy of matthewh.

Yuletide Shrimp On The Barbie

One Christmas in Australia tradition that needed an alteration, however, was the holiday dinner. As delicious as it is to eat, oven-roasted turkeys and ham aren’t a lot of fun to cook when the temperature outside is already over 100-degrees Fahrenheit (38-degrees Celsius). Instead of the traditional family Christmas dinner, many Aussies gather in big groups on the beach for a lunchtime barbecue picnic. Prawns, lobsters and cold meats take center stage, surrounded by salads and apple and cranberry sauces. Following the serving of the main course, people get ready for a game of cricket or take to the water for a quick surf/swim break. After a couple hours — once enough scores have been settled and waves ridden — it’s time to bring dreams of a white Christmas to life.

Not with snow, however (unless you get lucky on the top of Mount Hotham in the southern state of Victoria). Instead, Australians get iced with dessert platters with white-colored sweets like frosted rice krispies, cold vanilla ice cream and apple pie with cloves. Another addition on this table might be a traditional Australian Christmas pudding.

These desserts are similar to their English counterparts, but have one important addition: gold. Back in the 1800s, many Europeans who immigrated to Australia found themselves working in gold mines. As a result, miners would bake a small golden nugget into their yearly puddings. Whoever bit into the pudding was said to get good luck in the upcoming year – even if the nugget broke your tooth. Today, small coins often substitute real nuggets.

While this Australian-ized meal is enough to tide most over for the year, those looking for a traditional white Christmas will pull out the ugly sweaters and fire up a turkey for a winter-y Christmas in July.

Carols By Candlelight

The warm weather doesn’t take away from all Christmas traditions. Without the risk of noses and voice boxes freezing, warm-weather caroling has become another popular tradition. The same miners who stuffed their puddings with gold also stuffed candles to the brims of their hard hats and took to their neighbors in song. Nowadays, the “Carols by Candlelight” tradition continues on with massive groups gathering on blankets in the park, holding candles, singing songs and celebrating peace on Earth and goodwill towards all men, which is the main theme of the night.

Most towns and cities host a caroling event the week before Christmas, with the biggest celebrations in Melbourne and Sydney being televised across the nation. The night air will bustle with the melodies from traditional carols like “Deck the Halls” and “Away in Manager” as well as some of Australia’s own classics like “Chorus of the Birds,” “White Wine in the Sun” and “Six White Boomers.”

“Six White Boomers” is a particularly noteworthy song, as it clears up the question of how Santa is able to deliver presents to Aussie children in a climate that’s not suitable for reindeer. The lyrics go:

When Santa Claus delivers his presents

He’s not taken around by reindeer because

They can’t stand the terrible heat

He’s taken around by six big, white old man kangaroos

Called the six white boomers.

christmas bush
Christmas Bush. Photo courtesy of John Tann.

Divine Decorating

Without sprinkles of snow on the ground or poinsettias in bloom, the Aussies needed to find another way to show their Christmas spirit. Being the middle of summer, finding a replacement plant was no trouble for innovative Australians; they have their very own Christmas Bush, the Ceratopetalum Gummiferum. This tall green plant produces bright red flowers right over the Christmas season and can be found in bouquets and wreaths along with Christmas Bellflowers, ferns and palm leaves.

The lack of snow proved to be a slightly more harrowing obstacle, so many Australians turn their attention to the skies instead of the ground for holiday aesthetics. Decorating houses with Christmas lights becomes a massive display across the entire country, with  families spending days decorating their abodes and taking outings to tour the neighborhood and see their friends’ creations.

The crowning piece of these homely collections belongs to David Richard, a lawyer from Canberra who holds the Guinness world record for Christmas lights. He first set the record in 2011, putting up 331,038 lights across his house and lawn. The following year, a family in New York snatched the record. This year, the competitive Australian decided not to back down, expanding his display to include a 50-meter (164-foot) canopied walk-through and 502,165 record re-claiming bulbs. Guinness officials recently confirmed the record not by counting individual bulbs, but by referencing store receipts.

The Richards family was first inspired to create such an extravagant display in order to raise money for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). David and his wife lost a child to the syndrome ten year ago and decided to charge admission to their spectacle. The effort proved worth the cost of equipment and the increase of $2,500 to their electricity bill, as the family was able to raise $78,000 in 2011, more than their total expenditure.

Not only the Richards family, but the entire nation act as proof that regardless of who you are, or where you live, the spirit of Christmas is really the most import aspect of the season – something Santa can appreciate from both his sleigh, or a surfboard.


About The Author

Currently working in a museum, Judi Zienchuk has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Northwestern Canada. She loves travel, longboarding and coffee flavored ice cream. To get more personal, check out her blog, Travvel Sized.

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Judi Zienchuk has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Northwestern Canada. When she's not galavanting the globe, you can usually either find her on a bike or consuming large amounts of caffeine (maybe even both at the same time). To get more personal, check out her blog, Travvel Sized.

Judi Zienchuk

Judi Zienchuk has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Northwestern Canada. When she's not galavanting the globe, you can usually either find her on a bike or consuming large amounts of caffeine (maybe even both at the same time). To get more personal, check out her blog, Travvel Sized.

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