Christmas in Australia: Facts About Australian Christmas Traditions

Although only around fifty percent of Australians identify as Christian, Christmas is still an important celebration in Australia. Here are some facts and information about how Christmas is celebrated Down Under.

Christmas tree on an Australian beach

Australian Christmas Traditions

  • As in other countries in the world, Christmas in Australia is celebrated on 25th December. But unlike many European countries where Christmas time is during the winter, in Australia, Christmas falls during the summer.
  • One of the most popular Australian Christmas traditions is to have a barbecue with friends and family. This is sometimes done at the beach, but more often takes place in a backyard or garden.
  • Although many Australian Christmas decorations are similar to those seen in European or North American households, some feature native Australian plants and flowers, for example, the eucalyptus and the flannel flower.
  • Outdoor Christmas lights and displays are commonplace in Australia, and it’s common for neighborhoods to hold competitions to celebrate the houses with the best decorations.
  • Christmas caroling is a popular Australian Christmas tradition, and organised caroling events are often held in churches and schools.
  • Families and friends commonly exchange gifts on Christmas Day.
  • Although Christmas Day is Australia’s main day of celebration, Christmas Eve (the day before Christmas) is often marked with a special meal or party. As in the UK and US, children are encouraged to leave out a glass of sherry and a mince pie (or similar foods and drinks) for Santa Claus.
  • In recent years, Secret Santa gift exchanges, where each person is assigned to buy a gift for someone else and the identity of the gift giver is kept secret until the gift is opened, have become more popular, especially among groups of friends or work colleagues.
  • Christmas Day is an Australian public holiday, and people often spend the day relaxing at home with their families or going to the beach.
  • At Christmas time many Australians think about those less fortunate than themselves. On Christmas Day many Australians donate their time or money to charities or local organisations.

Australian Christmas Food

  • Just like in the UK, one of the most popular traditional Christmas foods in Australia is roast turkey, served with stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes and, roasted vegetables.
  • Another popular Christmas dish is glazed ham, sometimes served with pineapple, cherries, and mustard.
  • Prawns (called shrimp in the US) are a popular choice for a Christmas seafood dish, and they are often served as a starter or as part of a seafood platter. They are often a key part of a traditional Australian Christmas barbeque.
  • Pavlova (a dessert made with a meringue base and topped with whipped cream and fruit) is a traditional Australian Christmas dessert.
  • Mince pies (small pastry-encased tarts filled with a mixture of dried fruit and spices) are also popular at Christmas time in Australia, as is fruitcake, sometimes served with a glass of sherry or port.
  • Another popular Australian Christmas dessert is plum pudding. This is made with dried fruit, nuts, and spices and is a very rich pudding. It is often referred to as Christmas pudding and is usually served with brandy butter or cream.
  • Snags, a type of sausage, are often cooked on an Australian Christmas barbeque.
  • Lamingtons, small chocolate-coated sponge cake squares rolled in coconut, are a popular Australian Christmas treat.

Australian Christmas Markets

Christmas Markets have become more popular in Australia in the last few years. Featuring stalls selling a range of Christmas foods, decorations, and handmade festive items, they often also feature live entertainment, such as carol-singing performances.
Some of the largest Christmas Markets in Australia include the German Christmas Market in Adelaide, the Sydney Christmas Market (held at Martin Place), the Melbourne Christmas Market (at Fed Square), and the Perth Christmas Market (at Forrest Place).

Other Australian Christmas Traditions and Facts

  • The Australian Children’s Christmas Carols Competition is a popular event held every year since 1957. It is a national contest for children to perform Christmas carols, and it is televised on Christmas Eve.
  • The Boxing Day Test is an annual cricket match held on 26th December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It has become a popular tradition for many Australians and is often watched on television in many of the country’s households.
  • Christmas bush (also known as bottlebrush) is a popular Christmas plant in Australia, and it is often used in Christmas decorations.
  • The Christmas beetle, a type of brightly colored scarab beetle that is common in Australia in the weeks around Christmas, is often associated with an Australian Christmas.
  • “Merry Christmas, mate!” is a typical Australian festive greeting.
Decorated Australian Christmas tree on a sandy beach