Have you ever thought what it would be like celebrating Christmas standing on your head?
Probably not. And, Australians don’t think about it either. But that’s what we do, year after year, partying it up in the southern hemisphere. Christmas in Australia sees Santa wear thongs (Flip flops for you dirty-minded people), chilled drinks and plenty of sunscreen.
While there are plenty of ways that Australians celebrate their Christmastime, there are some serious differences between how Christmas is recognised Down Under, and the white Christmases of the northern hemisphere. Before you go booking flights to Australia for our summer, it may be worth keeping these differences in mind.
Whether the weather the be warm
Australia has a reputation for being hot. All the time. While that is not always the case (Australia’s winter can be legitimately vicious at times), it is definitely the case during summer.
Celebrating Christmas Day in Australia means there are two options:
- spending the day in air conditioning
- spending the day by the pool
Or, the unmentionable third option,
- dying of heat exposure
You might think I’m joking, but heat stress is actually the number one natural killer in Australia.
So that leaves the first two options - in addition to keeping well-hydrated. If you do not have access to air conditioning or a pool, then it is time to take advantage of someone else’s cooling systems. Why else do you think Australians spend time with the family on Christmas Day?
While shopping centres are closed on Christmas Day itself, the shops are still busy during the holiday period, especially right before C-Day. I fear it may be partly so that the country’s population can take advantage of the free air conditioning.
Or possibly shelter. It is common during the Australian summer to have a spate of thunder storms after experiencing higher temperatures - and then to have relief in some cooler weather. But, the mix of crazy temperatures can also give way to hail storms, too.
Given that Christmas falls in the Australian summer, it has influenced a lot of Australia’s cultural take on the holiday period. Which brings us to the next change to the traditional Christmas celebrations …
The way Australians decorate in the festive season is then also influenced by the weather - but that doesn’t stop them from having some amazing light displays!
One of the treasured traditions of celebrating Christmas in Australia is being able to go walking and looking for Christmas lights. Daylight Savings was well-and-truly set in for most Australian states, which means waiting until around 8:30-9pm to ensure it is dark enough to really appreciate the luminescent beauty! Be warned, though, the Australian mosquito population is fairly persistent - some “mozzie” spray is definitely called for.
Outside of traipsing the streets for a view of some modern suburban Christmas displays, the presence of Christmas lights can look a little odd. After all, there are not too many hours in the dark to fully appreciate them!
With the soaring temperatures permeating through every aspect of life, Australians usually skip on the traditional live (Or, recently harvested) fir tree. While the smell of pine is positively delicious, the sight of a dried, dead tree is not so much. Better to invest in a plastic Christmas tree.
Heat influences an Australian’s choice of tree. It also has a role in the food we eat.
For the foodies
Australian Christmas food consists of mangoes, cherries, rockmelon (Or, cantaloupe) and watermelon. They are cheap to buy, they are abundant, and they are most certainly in season in Australia around this time of year.
And, they are delicious.
This smorgasbord of available fruits also don’t involve heating up the oven. Christmas lunch and dinner definitely does not see an active oven. December in Australia is as hot as Dante’s seventh circle of hell - there is no way on God’s Earth that anyone is firing up an oven. Think more like cold meats and succulent salads.
Oh, and of course, a solid barbeque. Heating up food is acceptable if it is done outside at the barbeque, sans “shrimp”. That’s right: whoever thought that “throw another shrimp on the barbie” was an Australian thing is horribly mistaken. For starters, we call them prawns. And, who in their right mind cooks seafood using a barbeque?
Anyway, I digress. The real question is: what are good eats without a solid soundtrack?
Think about all of the Christmas carols you know. There is a recurrent theme throughout the lyrics - snow, cold, sleighs, long dark nights. Exactly the kind of things that you do not encounter in an Australian summer.
And so, Australia has developed its own Christmas carols, crafted specifically for long, hot days.
While there are a few notable differences between an Australian Christmas and the rest of the world there is still the one core similarity at the heart of any Christmas. Spending the time with your nearest and dearest! Having written this piece in advance of the Christmas celebrations - I just want to take the opportunity to wish everyone reading this a ‘happy holidays’!
I’ll be taking the next week off to bask in the gloriousness of the Australian holiday period - feel free to join me, if I haven’t put you off!
What are you doing to celebrate during the holidays? Feel free to write about it in the comments below!