Useful Notes: Christmas in Australia
A typical Australian Christmas.
"Christmas where the gum trees grow, There is no frost and there is no snow, Christmas in Australia's hot - Cold and frosty's what it's not! When the bloom on the Jacaranda tree is here, Christmas time is near."
Christmas In Australia
— "Christmas Where the Gum Trees Grow", Australian Christmas carol
tends to be similar to Christmas in Britain
, with a few necessary changes.
Most notably, it's hot. Very hot. Depending on locale, the temperature ranges from warmish, to sort of hot, to blood-boilingly-tarmac-melting-railroad-warping-surface-of-the-sun hot (and it's also very humid). note
This is because Australia is located in the Southern Hemisphere, where, due to the planet's tilt, the seasons are the opposite to the Northern Hemisphere — in December, it's summer.
As a result, later Christmas activities can involve going to the beach, assuming a) you live near a beach (which most do, with a generous idea of 'near'), and b) you're south of the Tropic of Capricorn — most of the more notorious Australian sea life
are found north of that line, and they are not
a laughing matter. If your family owns a pool, odds are most of Christmas Day will be spent in it, with short breaks for lunch/dinner.
If there's one thing Australians have perfected to a fine art, it's Christmas lights. Spend some time looking around any suburb of any capital city during the Christmas season. Stunning arrays of Christmas lights will
ensue, and every house will at the very least make a halfhearted attempt at joining in (In Melbourne
, The Boulevard in Ivanhoe is famous city-wide (at least) for its elaborate Christmas displays). It probably helps that the hotter weather is slightly more conducive to setting the things up to begin with and making touring streets a fairly pleasant prospect; achieving either probably isn't as easy when there's snow everywhere and it's freezing. note
The weather often results in prolonged Christmas/New Year bushfires, especially down south. Up north it's also the wet season, making the fires less common despite the higher temperatures. There are some exceptions. In 2006, freak weather conditions resulted in up to 30 cm of snow falling in some mountainous areas of Victoria and New South Wales on Christmas Day. In 2011, some parts of Melbourne also witnessed a white Christmas of sorts due to severe hailstorms.
Other key differences that distinguish Australian Christmas:
- The Christmas meal will be either an English dinner with turkey and everything, or an Australian barbecue, with steak and sausages and ice cream. In New South Wales and Queensland, it usually also involves seafood, particularly prawns. note
- Some Australian Christmas cards depict Santa using waterskis instead of a sleigh. If he does use a sleigh, it may be pulled by kangaroos (Snow White Boomers) instead of reindeer.
- Of course, most of the traditional Christmas imagery still remains, and Aussies will gladly sing carols about snow and give each other cards depicting winter landscapes without a shred of irony; actually, the standard winter imagery is significantly more common, both in the selling of the goods and in actual practice, and Australianisations tend to invoke cases of Cultural Cringe.
- "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Christmas" are almost always used, "Happy Holidays" is quite rare.
- The commercial networks don't generally air Christmas-themed television episodes, because it's the summer non-ratings period, meaning that we only get to the Christmas-themed episodes of American sitcoms around May. However, they can and have been made, the season final of Blue Heelers for example, as well an early Round the Twist episode and a few from Home and Away (which runs all year). The ABC airs quite a lot of Christmas-themed stuff, including the Doctor Who Christmas special. Christmas movies also air as ubiquitously as anywhere else.
- The tree is usually a fake one, since pine trees aren't native here and nobody likes having a gum tree in their living room. However, if you grew up near a pine plantation note , then it's more likely that you use a real tree. In some areas Casuarina trees are used. note
- Melbourne has a couple of its own traditions: the Myer Christmas windows, an elaborate display in the front of department store Myer in Bourke Street, and the Boxing Day Test, a Cricket match that begins on December 26th.
- Sydney has the same, except it's the David Jones window on Elizabeth St, and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
- The David Jones in the Adelaide CBD has the 'Magic Cave' every year
- Merryweather, a suburb in NSW, used to have 'Graceland', where a large house was turned into a walk-through display every year. It was quite the spectacle until a few years ago, when the owner passed away.
- Some of the state's capital cities have a Christmas pageant, an event that happens a couple of weeks before Christmas and largely consists of a parade with various Christmas/fairytale/pirate/whatever floats trundling down the main street of the CBD that's been closed off for the day.
- The biggest of these is in Adelaide.
- Mangoes are often eaten as a Christmas food, and crates of them are sometimes given as gifts.
- Cherries are also very popular at Christmas. When the first tray of the season is made, it is auctioned off for a large amount of money.
- SBS will play a Hayao Miyazaki film on Christmas Day at around 8pm.
- In most of the larger cities, arthouse and repertory cinemas will screen Monty Python's Life of Brian on either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day (but never on the day itself).
- Don't forget Carols by Candlelight! One such event is held is almost every city in the lead-up to Christmas, but the original (and the best) is the one held in Melbourne. The Nine Network traditionally broadcasts the Melbourne carols, which have been hosted by journalist Ray Martin for nearly twenty years; neighbouring countries including New Zealand also get the broadcast of the Melbourne event for some reason.
- This also has an example of Large Ham. John Foreman (composer, songwriter and also the guy who would set up the live bands for shows like Dancing with the Stars or Australian Idol) often conducts the orchestra, but for the Hallelujah chorus, he hands the reins over to someone else. He will then proceed to take the cymbals and does something with them while he's waiting for his big moment at the finale. In the last couple of years, this has included him walking around the entire park, standing up on stage and standing in the pit, all with the hammiest grin on his face. You can tell he has an absolute BLAST wit this song.
- The Melbourne carols are always hosted on the evening of Christmas Eve, and always end with the entire cast singing a medley that begins and ends with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" as the credits roll.
- Carols by candlelight in the domain is Sevens answer to that show. Famous for having the Wiggles and Delta Goodrem on them.
- It's also a tradition to play cricket when your family is over, usually by using a plastic cricket set or substituting with something like wheelie bins and a bat. Similarly, there's beach cricket, transposing cricket to a beach setting with all the fun of trying to run around on deep sand; in which case, a boogie board generally serves as the wickets if none are available.
- There are also all kinds of house rules, such as Tippy Gonote where the batsman has to run when they hit the ball even if they just hit the tip. Common additions include Six and Out, where hard to field areas such as the roof or the water when at the beach are worth 6 runs and an automatic, and Can't get out first ball, for when younger and less coordinated players are in the family. The Other Wiki has a bigger list here.
- As was previously mentioned, December 26th, AKA Boxing Day, is the time for sporting events: the Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race or the Boxing Day Test Match cricket are the two biggest. This is probably because after the clamour and excitement of Christmas Day, it dawns on everybody that it's still the middle of a really hot summer, so most people just want to sit around watching sport.
- For the same reasons of "we want to sit in an air-conditioned cinema and be entertained", a lot of movies get released on Boxing Day in Australia. They're usually fantasy, science fiction, or in some manner fantastical, although there's usually a comedy in there as well. All three installments of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Film/Eragon, The Adventures of Tintin, Transformers: The Movie and plenty of others came out that day.