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  • Writer's pictureAffy Bhatti

Celebrating Christmas In Australia: A Quick Guide

celebrating Christmas in Australia

Christmas remains one of Australia’s core celebrations, celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians. For many migrants, however, it can be a strange experience indeed, as you might come to Australia expecting a ‘traditional’  and end up having an experience that is nothing like the snow-and-trees Christmases that you’ll see in movies.

That was the experience that Bless Payments’ own co-founder, Affy went through. As a Muslim, he had experienced what a traditional Christmas looks and feels like, and then, after coming to Australia, realised just how open Australians were about the holiday.


Having grown up in England, Affy’s experience of Christmas was short days and long nights, freezing weather and snow, Christmas Carols in the High Street and shopping malls and watching Gremlins, Home Alone and Die Hard on TV - very much that traditional and cinematic Christmas that has so captured generations of imaginations.

Then he moved to Australia and quickly found that Christmas here is very, very different.

For one thing, it’s hot. Really hot. That might be stating the obvious, but December is peak summer here, and snow doesn’t tend to fall on 30+ degrees Celsius days. This has many knock-on effects on how Australians celebrate Christmas.

For example, rather than a “traditional” Christmas feast, in Australia, families love to get out and enjoy an outdoor BBQ, cold seafood platters, and a game of backyard cricket.

And due to Christmas coinciding with summer holidays for workers, and school holidays for children, people of all faiths and backgrounds tend to celebrate the string of public holidays and the end of the year together at the same time.

For that reason, it’s more common to see “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” than “Merry Christmas” in the public sphere. Businesses, media outlets and government organisations that want to be inclusive within our very multicultural society have developed this as a secular way of allowing everyone to participate in the season.

Here at Bless Payments, we recognise every holiday. So for our Christian friends and colleagues or anyone who celebrates Christmas, we wish them “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” as we know how much it means to us when our own major holidays, celebrations and events are recognised by others.

Some Tips for Christmas in Australia

Australia is fun, welcoming, and a wonderfully unique experience that Australians love dearly, regardless of cultural or spiritual background.

Make the Most of community events: All councils & city centres try to make this time of year as special for families and children as possible. Carols by Candlelight might sound like a religious tradition, but in reality, it’s a family-friendly event where local singers and performers come together to entertain people at a (generally free) concert.

Go Looking For Christmas Lights: Many Australians love to decorate the front of their homes with Christmas lights and decorations. If you hop in your car and drive around town you’ll discover some incredible displays by some very creative people, best is after sunset. There’s even the rare street where every homeowner will pull out some lights. Council websites or even your neighbourhood’s community Facebook page will have lots of discussions, including the best streets to visit to see Christmas lights.

Boxing Day Cricket Test Match: Australians love Cricket, like most of us and it’s great to listen live on your phone during a picnic with family & friends outside.

Contributing to Christmas BBQs: In Australia, if you’re invited to a Christmas BBQ, it’s traditional to bring something to contribute to the table of food. If you’re not sure what to bring, ask the host what other people are bringing and take something to add to the range of what’s on the table. This could be snacks, something for the BBQ, a salad, or a dessert option.

Share Your Traditions: Australia is multicultural and the “rules” about Christmas are relaxed and bringing a part of yourself to the table is really encouraged. So feel free to bring whatever traditions you like to it and you’ll find that whoever you’re celebrating with will embrace the opportunity for a different experience.

Dig Into The Seasonal Fruits: Enjoy the summer fruits. Christmas is the perfect time to enjoy mangoes, cherries, and watermelons. All are incredibly refreshing on a hot day, and Australian summer produce is bursting with flavour.

Gifting: Most Australian workplace Christmas parties involve one of two kinds of gifting: The boss might provide their employees a token of appreciation, and some workplaces do a “secret Santa,” where each employee picks a name of a co-worker out of a hat at random and then buys them a small gift of nominal value.

Meanwhile, most casual social gatherings don’t involve gifting. Family gatherings might, though many families opt to simply give a gift to the children (nieces and nephews). It’s only within the close family where gifting is almost common in Australia, though of course, your social groups can make your own rules there.

If you do feel the need to provide a gift at Christmas, an ornament for the Christmas tree is often a thoughtful and inexpensive gesture, as is a wrapped Christmas pudding.

Volunteer: The holiday season is a great time to give back to the community, and Australians do have a proud history of volunteering during the season. Remember, because Christmas involves good food, presents, and families coming together, those without means or those who are alone can find it particularly distressing. Doing a good thing for these people really cuts to the core of the Christmas spirit.

Enjoy Water Safely: Christmas almost always seems to involve water at some point. Families flock to the seaside and riverside to enjoy time together and cool off, but it is really important to be safe, swim at patrolled locations or with a lifeguard and always swim between the flags at the beach.

Sunscreen should have a SPF 50+ rating to prevent burns from ruining your celebrations or looking like a lobster.

Stay Hydrated: Finally, and perhaps most importantly – when you’re staring down 30+ degree days with a blistering sun, you need more water than normal. Heat stroke is a very real risk at a Christmas event, and it’s not the way that you want to remember your holiday.

Essentially, an Australian Christmas is a very different experience. Some people do try and bring in European traditions, and that’s fine, but it’s certainly not the only way to enjoy the festive season. In fact, the way that the Australian Christmas has evolved to become its own unique thing is a testament to just how multicultural and open our society is.

Whether it’s your first Australian Christmas or you’ve been celebrating it for years, remember that the spirit of the holidays is universal. It’s about spreading joy, love, and warmth, and wishing blessings on your family, friends and colleagues. And if you do want to kick back and just watch Die Hard, Gremlins, or Home Alone, that’s quite okay too.


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