Settlement Guide

What's Christmas like in Australia

A family spending Christmas day together Source: Getty Images

Australians might have embraced some European Christmas traditions, but they have also created their own.

Christmas is a Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th. And while it's still observed as a religious holiday by many, many other Australians don't observe the religious aspect of the holiday and rather see it as a way to get together with family and friends, exchange presents and feast.

Christmas Morning in Australia
Christmas Morning in Australia (Getty Images)
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Christmas lunch

In Australia, Christmas celebrations usually happen on the 25th of December around lunch. For a lot of people, it's a casual affair.

SBS Food managing editor Farah Celjo says there are staples you'll find on a lot of tables come Christmas lunch: “Things like Christmas ham, snacking boards, plenty of seafood, Christmas pudding, tiramisu, trifle, pavlova. And then you also eat plenty of fresh fruits so obviously you think about cherries, mangoes, peaches and other stone fruits."

But she also says that since Australia is so multicultural, there's not only one way to do Christmas and it's possible to bring your own food traditions to the table.

“I would be open to have a Malaysian laksa on Christmas day, with an abundance of seafood, all the way to an ice cream cake or something like panettone. I would definitely do a panettone. In Serbia and the Balkan countries, they would do a seafood soup so I'd happily serve a seafood soup," she suggests.

Christmas
Christmas lunch (Getty Images)
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You’ll also find it’s common for the host to ask guests to bring a dish. Celjo recommends bringing something that you're comfortable making. While she didn't grow up celebrating Christmas in her family, she would often join her friends' families and bring her favourite Bosnian dessert.

“I would always spend Christmas day with my really good girlfriends and their families, their Greek or Italian families, so that was pretty amazing and full of feasting. I would always bring a dessert. I would always make a typical Bosnian dessert. I'd usually do a jam shortbread, like a scone shortbread, which is basically like a scone dough, plum jam-filled and then rolled in icing sugar."

Spending time outdoors

Christmas Day on Brighton Beach near Melbourne
Christmas Day on Brighton Beach near Melbourne (Getty Images)
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Because Christmas is in the middle of the summer and school holidays, Australians take advantage of the warm weather to spend time outdoors. People often go for a swim at the beach, have lunch in their backyard or go down to their local park.

“Last year, we went to the park, which was amazing because no one needed to host Christmas at their place. I love that because it's summer, it's very casual, everyone is in a good mood," says Mexico-born Pamela López Arriaga.

Boxing Day

After presents are exchanged and lunch is eaten on the 25th, many people spend the following day barbecuing and watching the Boxing Day Test match between the Australian national cricket team and an opposing foreign team.

Brisbane-born Luke Barbagallo says he never misses the Boxing Day Test match: “Cricket really loomed large growing up. And growing up through the 90s and early 2000, Australia had a really dominant cricket team so Christmas always felt like a really celebratory time of the year and then you'd have the Boxing Day Cricket Test. There was always this sense that Australia was going to win so there was a lot of positivity around that. The Boxing Day Test is the one game of cricket I really watch every year."

Opening Christmas crackers
Family opening Christmas crackers. (Getty Images)
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Make your own Christmas traditions

You'll find a lot more different traditions depending associated with Christmas; from advent calendar and midnight mass to carols and Christmas trees.

There are many ways to celebrate Christmas, religiously and not, so you can pick the existing traditions that suit you and mix them with your own.