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Celebrating Christmas In Australia: Merry Christmas From Down Under

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A new expat anticipates and prepares for her first Christmas in Australia

Sunshine, beaches, and sundresses are not the usual images I associate with the Christmas season, but now that I’m living in Australia I’m getting an education on how the other half of the world experiences the holidays.

I confess it’s hard for this Canadian girl to feel Christmasy with soaring temperatures and roses blooming, but I’m doing my best to get in the spirit of things. It makes me grin to see the giant Christmas tree at the local shopping center surrounded by barefoot kids and their moms keeping as cool as possible in breezy skirts.

I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Determined to find out how the locals celebrate Christmas, I’ve been peppering my Aussie friends with questions about their uniquely Australian traditions.

They told me that since Australia was initially settled by immigrants (and convicts!) from England, most Australian families grew up with the traditional English Christmas dinner of roast goose, beef or turkey, and the accompanying hot vegetables and steamed pudding with custard.

My friend Robbie grew up with this style of Christmas dinner.

“It was the sort of thing you’d have in England in the middle of winter,” he said. “We had the tuppences and sixpences hidden in the pudding. Mum would push one in every serving to make sure everyone got one.”

But as the years went by, Robbie’s family, along with many other Australians, altered their traditions to suit their new lifestyle and climate.

Some simply turned their English roast dinner into a cold roast dinner – quite similar to a Scandinavian smorgasbord with cold sliced meats and salads – while others changed it completely.

My friend Ann grew up in a family of Hungarian immigrants and still makes a full hot roast dinner for her family on Christmas Eve. But friends of hers have moved the cooking and eating outdoors, preparing prawns and other seafood on the grill.

(Note: there seems to be no surer way to get an Aussie’s dander up than by asking for “shrimps on the barbie.” Apparently, this iconic Aussie term known the world over is not Australian at all. For the record, its prawns on the barbie.)

Other traditions have changed as well. While many families still have their Christmas dinner seated indoors around a dining table laden with fine china, others have moved the festivities outdoors, gathering at the beach or in the bush and feasting off paper plates.

I’m still pondering how to celebrate this Christmas in Australia, but I have started one new tradition: With the dearth of pine trees in this area, my Christmas evergreen has become a citrus tree which I later plant in my garden and harvest for years to come.

Last year it was a lemon tree – a cute little one that is now covered in darling lemons that are plump and juicy. This year I’m choosing between lime and red grapefruit.

Which one would you choose?

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About the author

I am a wood-burning artist, goat farmer, writer and photographer of all things food, travel, and lifestyle. Born in Canada, raised in the USA, and shaped by my European roots, I now live on a goat farm in Queensland, Australia with my husband, where I celebrate anything that leads to healing, thriving, and loving. For more visit: Rambling Tart

11 thoughts on “Celebrating Christmas In Australia: Merry Christmas From Down Under”

  1. I think having a citrus tree for Christmas which you later plant and harvest is such a brilliant idea, rather than just buying a tree to throw away. I think I’d go for the red grapefruit, just because it has that touch of festive color and will give you a delicious breakfast fruit! I hope your Australian Christmas is wonderful 🙂

  2. Thanks, Krista, for such a beautifully illustrated yarn on what Christmas is like Down Under. I once spent a Christmas in New Zealand (when I was an expat in Japan), and I must confess, I found it a tad depressing. My conclusion was, this would take sometime getting used to!

    Interestingly enough, your story joins up very well with a guest post we commissioned for the site that I write for, The Displaced Nation: “I’ll (not) be home for Christmas,” by Kat Selvocki. Kat’s an American who is on her way to Australia (Sydney) to start a new life as a yoga instructor. Though she intended to arrive in time for Christmas (she has cousins there), she couldn’t resist the siren song of the holiday preparations in Eastern Europe (she’s a foodie, known for her baking), so will be spending her first Christmas without family.

    I’ll let Kat know about your post — and what she is missing! xx p.s. Kat too is an excellent photographer, so that’s something for her to look forward to!

  3. Those photos are so vivid and beautiful! I live in Las Vegas and it is really weird to have palm trees decked out in little twinkling lights during the holidays. I’m pretty sure I’d rather be in Australia for Xmas though and have prawns on the barbie. 😉

  4. I would definitely struggle to get used to Christmas in these climes – I’m finding it hard enough this year, where it’s a few degrees warmer in England than usual! Interesting to hear how traditions have adapted and evolved. I hope you enjoy your celebrations and I look forward to reading more about them.

  5. It would be strange for me also to celebrate Christmas with sunshine and 30 Celsius outside. It’ll be a great experience for you and I’m sure you’ll love it! 🙂

  6. This is so wonderful! I’ve always wondered what they do during summer time. It is so hard to get into the spirit when it is so warm outside.

  7. Christmas in hot weather… any time for me. This year it was not to be, so I made the most of it, but generally speaking, I hate the cold.

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