If you happened to see this funny news clip about a koala stuck in a Christmas tree, it might have left you wondering: How do they celebrate Christmas in Australia? Their seasons are flipped, so right now it’s the middle of the summer, but they still celebrate Christmas on December 25th along with the rest of the world.
The colonization of Australia began in 1788, and new immigrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland brought their Christmas traditions with them. Some of those traditions are still going strong today, while others have either been altered or fallen by the wayside.
Like us, they have evergreen trees, string lights, and Santa Claus, though in Australia he’s often seen in red shorts, an Akubra hat, and "jandals" (Japanese sandals). Instead of a sleigh with reindeer, Santa is depicted as riding in a ute pulled by kangaroos. Every year, in early November, the beginning of the Christmas season is marked by the Adelaide Christmas Pageant, a parade often attended by over 400,000 people which ends in Santa’s arrival.
Along with the usual evergreens and poinsettias, Australians have an abundance of plants to choose from when decorating. The Christmas bush, Christmas bellflower, and Christmas orchid are all naturally festive in appearance. When it comes to the Christmas lunch, Australians have also added to northern hemisphere classics, like roast turkey and plum pudding. The local cold meats, seafood - especially prawns - and fresh fruit are also on their tables and the most Australian Christmas dessert is the pavlova, composed of meringue, fruit, and whipped cream. The Christmas drink of choice is cold beer, often consumed at outdoor Christmas meals and barbecues on the beach.
When it comes to Christmas songs and carols, the established trend continues, with the songs we’re accustomed to singing being just as popular there, along with some extra Australian-specific songs, like "Six White Boomers" by Rolf Harris. They also have their own version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with the following lyrics:
"On the twelfth day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Twelve piupius swinging
Eleven haka lessons
Ten juicy fish heads
Nine sacks of pipis
Eight plants of puha
Seven eels a swimming
Six pois a twirling
Five - big - fat - pigs !
Four huhu grubs
Three flax kits
And a pukeko in a ponga tree."
The best-loved Christmas carols are sung every Christmas Eve at Carols by Candlelight events all around Australia, where professional singers and everyday people gather to sing together. The Melbourne event is televised nationwide.
Christmas is a uniquely athletic holiday for Australians. Each year on December 26th, the Boxing Day Test cricket match is held, tickets having sold out months in advance. People also flock to see the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a major televised event.
Others will spend the holiday playing cricket with friends and family, going camping, or at the beach. The most popular beach on Christmas Day is the Bondi Beach in Sydney, but it’s mostly filled with tourists, not locals. Unfortunately, many Australians are outdoors on Christmas because they are volunteering to fight bushfires or they’ve had to evacuate their homes because of such a fire. The weather outside is frightful for an entirely different reason.
Maybe in a year I'll get to take a trip to see an Aussie Christmas for myself. For now, I'm content with my cold-weather traditions.