Question:

How do Australians celebrate Christmas

Christmas in Australia: Carols by Candlelight

Every year, thousands of Australians gather in parks and town halls to sing Christmas carols by the light of candles. The tradition is an essential part of Christmas celebrations and is beautiful to see.

It is generally agreed that "Carols by Candlelight" was started in Melbourne, Australia by radio announcer Norman Banks in 1937, after he saw a woman listening to carols alone by candlelight. Banks decided to do something to relieve the loneliness and isolation some feel during the Christmas period. He announced community carol singing for anyone who wanted to join in.

The concept has grown in popularity over the years, and these days a major event is held in each major city's public music house, such as Melbourne's Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Celebrities and renowned singers lead the singing at these events. The recorded programs of these events are broadcast the world over.

Christmas in Australia: Traditions

The Christmas traditions in Australia include Carols by Candlelight in the parks and gardens of most cities and towns, the gathering of family for a major meal on Christmas day and the mailing of Christmas greeting cards to friends, many of whom we have not contacted since the previous Christmas. To facilitate this, Australia Post issues a series of Christmas stamps, allowing the mailing of Christmas cards at reduced rates. Christmas traditions are usually topped off with the cricket match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, on Boxing Day. Many Australians head to the beach on Christmas day and most families indulge in a family game of cricket, badminton, or some other game in the afternoon, to top off a very relaxing day downunder.


Christmas in Australia: School holiday period

The school year ends in early December, and recommences at the end of January. As the children are on holiday many working people take all or part of their annual leave entitlement during this period. There are public holidays for Christmas Day, Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and New Years Day.

Christmas in Australia: Weather

Although Australia is a multi-religion country, Christmas is still a major holiday marking the end of the year. Far from being cold and dark, Christmas in Australia comes within 3 days of the longest day of the year. There are long daylight hours and warm temperatures. This can be a real experience for visitors who are used to short days and long cold nights at Christmastime.

You can have any type of weather for your Christmas in Australia except a white Christmas (although snow has been recorded in Hobart on Christmas Day). The traditional Christmas Day involves a barbeque and lots of beer.

Christmas in Australia: Church services

Christmas is the major event of the Christian calendar and is celebrated in Australia with many church services which commence on Christmas Eve and continue through Christmas Day. Attending Midnight Mass at the local church is one tradition most Christians observe in Australia. Churchgoers can generally discover the theme of the season's sermons either published on board outside churches or sometimes in local papers.

Christmas in Australia: Cards

Christmas cards are generally exchanged in Australia, always bearing in mind those who are not Christian. Australians, like those in the many countries that celebrate Christmas, use the time of year to send off cards with news of their families and keep in touch with distant acquaintances.

Those not from Australia might wonder whether we have cards with an Australian theme or whether they are all frost, ice and snow. The answer is that general Christmas themes prevail in Australian Christmas card design, including cold-weather themes. Holly, candles, doves etc comprose 23% of the general card output. Traditional Christmas ice scenes comprise 19% . Father Christmas is on 18% of cards. Snow & winter scenes comprise 13% and religious themes take up 10% . Australian scenes and images make up only 6% of Christmas cards. The remaining 11% is made up of 'other', cards which don't readily fit into a group.

Christmas in Australia: Carols by Cruiser

In several communities in Australia where there are many homes fronting onto quiet bays or canals, a custom has evolved of a large boat or ferry cruising slowly around the area, usually on Christmas Eve, either playing Christmas carols through its public address system or they have a live choir on board that sings the carols accompanied by musicians. The main boat is accompanied by a fleet of private power cruisers with their own lighting display and singers. As it is usually a calm night the reflections of many Christmas lighting decorations add to the atmosphere. The Royal Motor Yacht Club Port Hacking is one such organisation that holds this type of event.

Christmas in Australia: The Christmas Meal

Christmas in Australia is in the middle of summer, therefore the usual Christmas meal is often salads and cold meats, and seafood is very popular. Turkey is a traditional meal, although most families opt to have a simple barbeque with salads due to the heat. Plum pudding, pavlova, fruit salad and cheesecakes are favourite desserts. The Christmas meal is usually taken in the middle of the day, which is the hottest part of the day, with leftovers consumed for the evening meal.

Christmas in July

One winter evening in 1977 a tradition was established in the Blue Mountains, which are only two hours drive from the centre of Sydney, when a group of Irish visitors, experienced a fall of snow. It reminded them of Christmas back home so they asked the management if they could arrange for them to have a traditional Northern hemisphere winter-style festive dinner.
The next night they were served their hot Christmas dinner, complete with all the trimmings, and were so delighted that the group returned again the following year.
In 1980 the Blue Mountains commenced a winter attraction titled A Yulefest Celebration which runs for the months of June, July and August, the coldest months of the year.
Tourists staying overnight enjoy the delicious Yulefest dinners, roaring log fires and might be lucky enough to experience the occasional winter snowfall or a visit from Santa.
This winter entertainment has spread to many parts of Australia as "Christmas in July" where a Christmas style function is held. It takes the form of a lunch or dinner, with all the traditional northern hemisphere Christmas foods, including colourful streamers, party hats and whistles.

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