• Prawns are a staple on many Aussie Christmas tables (AAP)
Spending on food and drink for Christmas and other festive occasions is going to burn a hole in our collective pockets.
Bianca Soldani

5 Dec 2016 - 3:24 PM  UPDATED 13 Dec 2016 - 7:32 PM

With under three weeks to go, the Christmas countdown has well and truly begun. But while presents are high on peoples’ shopping lists, food and drink accounts for almost half of what Australians spend during the festive period.

According to figures released by the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), shoppers are expected to spend an eye-popping $19 billion on food nationally this pre-Christmas season. That's 40 per cent of our total retail purchases in the period between November 15 and December 24, and doesn't include what we spend at restaurants and bars.

A further $7 billion is expected to go into the hospitality sector across the country, driven by a 6 per cent increase in friends and families eating out this year when compared with last year.

In 2015, Australians spent a whopping $25.6 billion on food and hospitality services combined, but this year’s total is predicted to be even higher at around $26.3 billion.

To put things in perspective, we're expected to hand over $21.7 billion nationally on online shopping, household goods, clothes, hairdressing, gambling and other presents.

ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman tells SBS, "Australians spend significantly more in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas than any other period. Food and drink accounts to approximately 40 per cent of the total Christmas spend with Australians attending various Christmas parties during the festive season."

When compared to the rest of the world, Australians spend more money on Christmas-time food than shoppers in the US, UK and Canada.

Figures featured in Quartz show that Australians fork out 21 per cent more money on food in December than the other 11 months of the year.

Italy and France splurge even more but they don’t out-do us by far, spending 29 and 28 per cent more on food respectively in December when compared to the rest of the year.

The Australian Retailers Association is predicting plenty of spending on all fronts this month, tipping a total shopping spend of more than $48.1 billion over the Christmas trading period. That follows Friday's announcement by the ARA of 3.5 per cent growth, seasonally adjusted (year on year), in October. 

festive food
Traditional gingerbread men

A classic your kids will love decorating. The dough is soft and pliable, making for easy rolling.

Cinnamon pancake puffs (aebleskiver)

The Danes’ Christmas Eve (Juleaften) begins with a 4pm candlelight church service with all the relatives, and is followed by an early feast. Before dinner, a bowl of rice porridge is set aside for the Julenisse (Christmas elves) so they will stop their pranking. A roast duck or goose stuffed with apples or prunes follows, served with caramelised potatoes, beets and red cabbage. Dessert is typically ris a l’amande (almond rice pudding), topped with a sweetcherry sauce. Traditional Danish pancakes (aebleskiver) are often served over the festive period as a special treat, and are a particular favourite on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Chilean “eggnog” (cola de mono)

This festive drink is laced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The alcohol component is pisco, a grape brandy, or aguardiente, a clear spirit that means “fire water”.