For migrants all over the world, Christmas can be a difficult time of year. Even if you don’t celebrate it, it’s a time of year focused on being with family. Feelings of homesickness often soar at Christmas time, especially if you’ve migrated to Australia on your own. Check out our article on battling homesickness to help make this time of year more enjoyable.
Your notion of a traditional Christmas will depend on where you have emigrated from. For many of you coming from the northern hemisphere, Christmas means mulled wine, cold weather, Christmas markets and a feeling of being overfed, warm and snug. Christmas in Australia will definitely leave you feeling warm, but in a totally different way.
Down in the southern hemisphere, it’s the peak of summer and the Australian Christmas traditions are slightly different. You won’t find much mulled wine or mince pies. Your Santa Claus outfit will probably come with shorts, not trousers, and your Christmas dinner may well be cooked on a BBQ outside! More on this craziness later.
A big part of the lead up to Christmas revolves around present shopping and catch-ups with friends. Christmas markets are a great way to do both at the same time! We do have Christmas markets in Australia, but they have much less of a German-sausage-and-mulled-wine vibe and more of an artisan-gelato-and-cold-beer vibe.
If you’re after some Christmas markets to find unique handmade gifts and yummy food, then The Big Design markets in Melbourne or the ‘ETSY made local’ markets in most cities, including Brisbane and Sydney, have hundreds of stalls brimmed with handmade and unique crafts.
If you just really want to feel like you’re back in the Northern Hemisphere, there are great Germanic style markets called Deutsche Schule markets in Melbourne. Western Australians are taking markets up a notch with a Christmas Festival in Perth showing Christmas films and selling Christmas booze into the night.
Australian Christmas Traditions
Aussie Christmas still favours all the modern traditional decorations like Christmas trees, fake snow, light shows and glitter everywhere, but they all seem somewhat misplaced in the more tropical backdrop. You never really imagine Santa on a beach do you?
Leading up to Christmas is much the same as places like the UK. There are Christmas shopping sales, advent calendars and endless Christmas parties. If you like to sing a Christmas carol or two, you can still go to church or local events to sing carols. If you’re up in Darwin then take a look at the Carols by Candlelight event for a truly heart-warming evening.
One thing we know is that Aussies love sport. We have already looked at our love for Aussie Rules Football and its strange rules. However, those looking to embrace the Australian Christmas should turn their attention to another sporting obsession: the Boxing Day Test. This is an annual cricket test match where Australia plays another touring country in Victoria. The 2020 game will be against India and hosted at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for up to five days. Wherever you’re watching from, it’s good fun for all and an excuse to get back together with your friends after Christmas Day.
The Lead Up to Christmas in Australia
If you have been in Australia for a while, you could unite with friends in a similar situation for epic Christmas celebrations. The slang phrase often used for expats’ Christmas celebrations is ‘orphans’ Christmas’. Come together to form your own Christmas traditions and celebrations and ease the homesickness as a group.
Often Christmas Eve is a popular party night and a chance to have some festivities with your Aussie mates you won’t see on the day. Check out some of the big boozy events like LEFTBANK in Perth or Lucky’s Catalina Christmas in Adelaide.
If your Christmas involves children, then the run up and the actual day can be very exciting (and very expensive). Sydney has an amazing Christmas Wonderland full of rides and activities to keep the Christmas spirits high. Melbourne has its own Christmas Square full of events, lights shows and a glimpse of the hirsute man himself. There are heaps to choose from across the country,
Now we come to the main event. Do they still have pigs in blankets? Are we still having roast turkey with gravy? For some, this is where it all gets a bit weird. Each Australian family has their own way of doing things, probably influenced by what nationalities are in their family.
Some love going down to the beach and having a big BBQ with a huge esky full of cold beers, some people like to stay at home with the air con and slave over a roast dinner. Often, it’s somewhere in between.
While the idea of a full roast dinner at Christmas seems like the right thing to do, the hot weather sometimes makes eating heavy food an unpleasant prospect. Aussie Christmas dinner can often involve big salads, hot and cold meats and pavlova instead of Christmas pudding. A lot of Australians have British roots so there will still be pigs in blankets and overcooked turkey if you want it, so don’t fret!
However you spend Christmas in Australia, remember the time difference will mean you’ll have to refrain from getting too drunk before speaking to your grandparents!