A beach tree

Christmas feels different when you’re spending it in a new country for the first time. This isn’t Mum’s first hot Christmas but it is the first Christmas we’ve hosted outside of the UK. During the lead up to Christmas I didn’t feel Christmassy at all, apart from the usual shopping frenzy, and wondered when my Aussie Christmas spirit was going to kick in. I think the arrival of visitors from the UK, warm weather, and end of school year activities overrode my festive build up.

It’s natural to compare how things are done here with what we’d be doing elsewhere. Here are the 12 differences of our first Australian Christmas;

1. The Weather

The main difference between Christmas down under and Christmas in Europe is the weather; it’s summer in December in Aus. Having Christmas in the sunshine is very different for a Brit and means all sorts of new experiences.

2. Food

One of the biggest dilemmas I faced when organising our first Christmas in Australia was what to eat. The idea of cooking a festive roast in the kitchen in the heat of summer wasn’t appealing. In the end we had brunch (traditional fry up) that was quick to prepare and mostly done on the BBQ, and a cold buffet in the evening. We also traded the traditional Christmas pudding for pavlova! Read Top seven Aussie foods for you (and the kids) to try… for more about typical Aussie food.

3. Drink

In Europe we associate warming drinks like mulled wine with Christmas, although other (any!) alcoholic drinks are also popular. In Australia, Champagne (down under this means any wine with bubbles not just bubbles bottled in France) and plenty of beer is more fitting.

4. Christmas tree decorations

When preparing the Christmas decorations I trawled the shops for chocolate to hang on the tree. I found some but it wasn’t as widely available as it is in the UK. Perhaps it was my timing, or maybe hanging chocolate on the tree just isn’t practical during the Australian summer; our chocolate Santas are rather soft.

5. Trip to see Santa

Last year we visited Santa at my parent’s local garden centre in England. We paid about £10 per child and the children got to sit in Santa’s grotto, hear a little story, and ask a few questions. On the way out they were given a small present. It was a magical experience.

In Sydney I haven’t found anywhere similar to take the children. You can visit Santa in shopping malls but it’s more about having a photo taken than any kind of dialogue, there’s little magic in the experience. If you know of somewhere more intimate in Sydney please share the knowledge, we’ll store the info for next year.

6. Clothing gifts

Spending Christmas in bikinis and flip flops is a big change from winter sweaters and boots; this impacts the Christmas presents you buy. The ubiquitous UK Christmas socks and woolly jumpers are swapped in Australia for swimwear and singlets (vests).

7. Long holidays

Christmas is a busy time of year wherever you are in the world, particularly if you have children. In Australia, the academic year ends in December. Children graduate before Christmas and start the next school year during the last week of January. This means you can add end of school year activities to your Christmas planning and busy becomes an understatement.

8. Aussie versions of Christmas songs

During our first Christmas in Australia we’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning Australian Christmas songs like Christmas where the gum trees grow, and The Australian twelve days of Christmas.

9. Christmas in July

You might have heard of Christmas in July; an Australian tradition of visiting the snow in July and enjoying a roast Christmas dinner. As I’ve already mentioned, cooking a roast in the middle of summer isn’t appealing so Christmas in July may become a Mum’s gone 2 Aus tradition too.

Another Christmas activity that starts in July is toy shopping; the large stores in Australia such as Target and K-Mart have toy sales in July and August. Many of my friends in Australia start their Christmas shopping for the kids in July. They also take advantage of layby; paying for the items they purchase and keeping them at the store until December. There have been a few occasions over the past weeks, whilst Mum has been frantically buying last minute items, when I’ve wished I’d taken advantage of the sales, and layby.

10. Christmas Day activities

In the UK, many families have a tradition of staying at home, playing board games and watching TV on Christmas Day. In Australia, getting out of the house is much more common. Our beach and local reserves were full of families enjoying the coastal air.

11. Christmas number one hype

There is huge media hype in the UK over who will be the Christmas number one in the music charts. In Australia there appears to be no such hype, in fact the British charts get more coverage than the ARIA singles charts. For information, the British X-Factor winner (Matt Cardle) got the number one spot in the UK, watch a clip target=”_blank”> here if you want to get up to speed.

12. The Queen’s Christmas message

OK, this is a small difference but if you’re used to settling down after Christmas Day lunch in the UK and watching the Queen’s Christmas message you won’t be able to in Aus. The Queen’s Christmas message is televised in Australia on Christmas Day at 7:20pm on ABC1.

Is it your first Christmas in Australia? What have you been doing, and what are the main differences you’ve compared with other countries? Do let us know in the comments below. Thank you.

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