Christmas in Australia and New Zealand comes in the middle of summer, which means there is no such thing as a white Christmas for these people. On the contrary, it means blue skies, bright sunshine and temperatures well into the eighties. It also means that in addition to preparing for Christmas, families are preparing to take their summer vacations, making this an extremely enjoyable time of year for most people.
Preparations for Christmas start in early December when decorations are put up. These decorations are similar to those put up in America and Europe, including door wreaths, artificial trees and nativity scenes. Because it is so warm during this time, lots of flowers are used to decorate, particularly the native Christmas Bush, which has little red flowered leaves and the Christmas Bell. Christmas cards with designs similar to those found in the UK and the US, including holly and snow scenes are sent out to family and friends during the first few weeks of December. Also during this time, there are many professional and amateur productions of Handel’s Messiah performed throughout the country. One version in particular is that presented by Radio Community Chest in Sydney Town Hall – a tradition that has taken place for over 50 years, with proceeds going to those in need. A choir of over 500 is drawn from churches throughout Sydney.
On Christmas Eve, ‘Carols by Candlelight’ takes place at the Myer Music Bowl. This has been a tradition since 1937, with thousands of people gathering to sing their favorite Christmas songs, lighting up the night sky with candlelight. Most people attend the midnight service on Christmas Eve before returning home to wait for Father Christmas/Santa Claus to come and leave presents under the tree. Before going to bed, children leave a glass of milk or coke for him and some carrots for his reindeer, similar to what children in the United States do.
Christmas Day is a time for families to get together and exchange gifts before either going to church or having Christmas lunch. Due to the diversity of cultures in these two countries as well as the fact that the weather is so hot at this time of year, people eat many different things for Christmas lunch and sometimes even have their Christmas lunch on the beach.
Boxing Day is a public holiday in Australia. It is a day to relax and watch the annual Boxing Day Test Match or to begin traveling to holiday destination spots. This day also marks the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
‘Christmas in July’ is a new tradition that has been forming in Australia over the past few years. July is Australia’s coldest month and even though temperatures are still well above freezing, it is cooler than it is in December. During this time, families will gather together and have a traditional Christmas meal together with all the trimmings, including party hats and streamers.