As a recent transplant to London from Australia, I am knee-deep in my first British Christmas festivities. I always assumed that an English Christmas was very similar to an Australian one, except for the snow and pigs in blankets. How wrong I was. While Britain has its fair share of awesome traditions that I am wholeheartedly embracing (hello, Christmas jumpers and mulled wine on tap), there are a few pretty great traditions I’m missing Down Under.
Going to the Beach
Sadly, even if it was possible to swim in the Thames, it wouldn’t be quite warm enough for a dip this time of year. Meanwhile in Australia, many families will be heading to the beach on Christmas day in between unwrapping their presents in the morning and their lunchtime feast.
Like with a lot of Australian traditions, those at Christmas take their cues from Britain – but with an Aussie twist. Fresh prawns, oysters, cold ham and salads are often served alongside roasties and turkey, and rather than a classic hot Chrissie pudding, many families enjoy a version made with ice cream, or even a pavlova! What’s more, the weather is so balmy that the meals are eaten outside, with a swim in the pool afterwards. Cherries are also incredibly popular during the Christmas season, and no post-Christmas feast fruit platter is complete without a mango or four. Candy canes are often exchanged between friends.
Australians LOVE a Christmas light display. Streets will compete with each other for the flashiest showings, and it’s not unusual for families to get in the car and drive around finding the best on Christmas Eve. From houses draped in fairy lights, to illuminated nativity scenes and life-sized, lit-up Santa’s with his reindeer, many of these displays would put Clark Griswold from National Lampoon‘s Christmas Vacation to shame!
Like Britain, Australia loves a good Christmas carol. And luckily the temperature is just right for gathering to sing them outdoors! Most schools hold carol nights, and every capital city throws a carols extravaganza, with local celebrities appearing. The most famous of these is Carols in the Domain, which families across the country tune in to watch, whether on the TV or in person at Sydney’s botanic gardens. Michael Buble’s Christmas album also gets high rotation at this time of year!
Christmas hits Australia before most other countries in the world, so it’s important that Santa is fuelled up for his journey across the globe. While in the northern hemisphere, he’s treated to milk and biscuits, he enjoys a nice cold beer at most households across Australia – it’s no wonder he’s so red-cheeked! On Christmas Day you can often find him being driven through the streets in a tinsel-covered fire engine. He is also often depicted wearing flip-flops and shorts to cope with the warm weather!
Australians make the most of the hot weather on Christmas day with a spot of backyard cricket. With wheelie bins as wickets, and often a tennis ball rather than a regular cricket ball, everyone from mum to great uncle Colin will join in, with varying levels of skill. Preferably while listening to Australian Christmas classic, ‘How to Make Gravy’ by national treasure Paul Kelly. It’s too hot to wear shoes, so bare feet are almost mandatory – you just have to watch out for bindis, little thorns that congregate in patches in the grass, sticking into the soles of your feet!
While the true meaning of Boxing Day has been lost in the annals of time, in Australia it means several things. Sandwiches made of leftover Christmas ham. Boxing Day sales, which are equivalent in madness to America’s Black Friday sales. The Boxing Day test match – the Australian cricket team playing an opposing side in Melbourne. The Sydney to Hobart yacht race. And, of course, there’s the beach – 40,000 people flock to the world famous Bondi Beach every Boxing Day!
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