Australia loves to get into the Christmas spirit. Living in Australia, you’ll see flashing lights and decorated trees in lots of homes and shops. You’ll also hear Christmas music playing in every store you go into for all of December.
Even if you don’t wish to celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is a great time to relax and catch up with friends. Here’s all you need to know about Christmas in Australia, from traditions on Christmas Day and gift-giving customs, to the weather and public holiday dates.
Christmas Day in Australia
In some cultures, it is more common to celebrate Christmas Eve, but in Australia, 25 December - Christmas Day - is the biggest event of the season.
Generally, the day involves parties during the day with lots of food and gifts shared. For some, attending church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is an important custom, with special carol services. Check for local churches in your area if you are interested in getting involved.
If you’re hosting or attending a Christmas Day party, there are a few things you should expect. Let’s run through them!
Christmas Day weather in Australia
Unlike in the northern hemisphere where you may expect a ‘white Christmas’ with cold and snowy weather, in Australia, Christmas Day is in summer and can get very warm.
Prepare for the heat and lots of sunshine! Many locals enjoy spending the day by the beach and cooling down in the ocean. If you want to do this, be sure to wear lots of sunscreen (and reapply it during the day and after swimming), a hat and sunglasses. You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Visit our sun and water saftey information page for more information.
Aussie Christmas food
Despite the heat, some people in Australia will still enjoy a hot, roast turkey on Christmas Day, with common side dishes including potatoes and roasted vegetables. It is also common to eat seafood and salads on Christmas day too.
For dessert, some common favourites are a rich Christmas pudding with custard and fruit and mince pies. Or a pavlova which is a traditional Aussie meringue cake served with whipped cream and fresh summer fruits.
Gift-giving and receiving is customary at Christmas in Australia. It is generally reserved for close family and friends, but you can also use this time to give a small, thoughtful gift to anyone you would like to show appreciation to. For example, feel free to offer a small gift to an academic mentor, student peers or your work colleagues.
As a student, planning a Secret Santa or Kris Kringle activity can be a great way to give presents in a budget-friendly way. The rules are simple: gather a group of friends and put everyone’s name in a hat. Each person then takes turns to pick a name, and that is the gift recipient they must buy for. Set a budget (for example, AU$20) and start shopping! Keeping the identity of the gift-giver anonymous is fun, as you can all take turns guessing who your gift-giver was on Christmas Day.
Is Christmas Day a public holiday?
Yes! The end of December and the beginning of January in Australia are full of public holidays. National public holidays (meaning they are observed in every state and territory) are Christmas Day (25 December), Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day (1 January). Some states and territories may also observe additional public holidays around this time.
On public holidays, including Christmas Day, many businesses close. So, it is important that you are prepared with any necessary essentials beforehand (such as groceries and medication), as they may be difficult to acquire on public holiday dates. Following New Year celebrations, some hospitality businesses also close to give their staff a summer break.
What is open on Christmas Day in Australia?
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are other options available for enjoying the Christmas Day break. Many major cinema chains stay open on 25 December, so you can catch a movie. Generally, zoos across Australia will also stay open, so you can spend the day with friends checking out the local wildlife.
Otherwise, enjoy the great outdoors and head to the beach or a lovely park near you.
Happy holidays everyone!
Image credit: Almonta Beach, Coffin Bay National Park, South Australian Tourism Commission