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What’s Christmas like in Australia?

Key Points
  • Christmas celebrations usually happen on December 25th around the lunch feast.
  • Christmas falls during the school holidays, allowing people to enjoy the warm weather by spending time outdoors.
  • Many Australians barbecue and watch the Boxing Day Cricket Test match the following day.
Australians might have embraced some European Christmas traditions but have also created their own.

Christmas is a significant Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is observed on December 25th every year.

While many Australians still observe Christmas as a religious holiday, others view it as an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, exchange gifts, and enjoy a feast.

Local traditions like the iconic Australian ‘Christmas Bush’, a native plant that blooms with red-flowered cheer, blend with decorations and carols to create a unique holiday experience in warm weather.

Christmas lunch

In Australia, Christmas celebrations usually happen on December 25th around lunchtime. For a lot of people, it’s a casual affair.
SBS Food managing editor Farah Celjo says there are staples on many tables for 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,” Ms Celjo says.

She adds that Australia is multicultural, so there are many ways to celebrate Christmas and mix food traditions.

Australia Explained - Christmas

Christmas Dinner with Salmon Fish Fillet, Scallops, Lobster, Shrimps and Christmas Cake Credit: GMVozd/Getty Images

“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.

You’ll also find it’s common for the host to ask guests to bring a dish. Ms Celjo recommends getting something that you’re comfortable making. 

While she didn’t grow up celebrating Christmas in her family, she often joined her friends’ families. She brought her favourite Bosnian dessert along to their table.

“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, basically like a scone dough, plum jam-filled and then rolled in icing sugar,” Ms Celjo says.

Australia Explained - Christmas

Credit: Bec Parsons/Getty Images

Spending time outdoors

During the Australian summer, Christmas falls during the school holidays, allowing people to enjoy the warm weather by spending time outdoors. Activities like swimming at the beach, having lunch in the backyard, or visiting the local park are common.

“I love that because it’s summer, it’s very casual, everyone is in a good mood,” Ms Arriaga says.

Boxing Day tradition

After exchanging gifts and enjoying lunch on December 25th, many people in Australia celebrate Boxing Day by barbecuing and watching the national cricket team play against an opposing team.
Brisbane-born Luke Barbagallo says he always attends the Boxing Day Test match.
“Cricket loomed large growing up. 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,” Mr Barbagallo says.

Australia Explained - Christmas

A family of Indian descent eats Christmas dinner on the patio at home in Australia. Credit: Fly View Productions/Getty Images

Make your own Christmas traditions

You’ll find many different traditions associated with Christmas, from advent calendar and midnight mass to carols and Christmas trees.

There are various ways to celebrate Christmas, whether religious or not, so you can choose the traditions that suit you and mix them with your own.

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