How do they celebrate Christmas in Australia?

This is a guest post from Ian Middleton.

I live in Sydney, and have had the last 5 Xmases here.

Pre Xmas, there are all the usual festivities, although Cities tend not to put up lights, just massive artificial trees. We attend carols by candlelight, which attracts thousands at the big shows, and is outdoors in both Sydney and Melbourne. We attend in our suburb, and we take a picnic and wine, and sit down by the harbour and have a lovely evening.

On the day itself, we are usually up at 5:30, because the sun is beaming through the window. Then a coffee, and down to the beach for a Xmas day dip! Tradition! All the surfers do wear Santa outfits whilst surfing, or the bodies beautiful wear Santa swim shorts or bikinis!

Presents opening in the morning……

Lunch is a mixed bag! Turkey is still a tradition for many, and the supermarkets stock sprouts!! There is stuffing mix and cranberry sauce, brandy custard etc. although many do opt for seafood for at least part of lunch! They buy prawns by the box load, and Sydney fish market is a nightmare a couple of days before……..

Then it’s all about family, and there are many phone calls in the early evening to loved ones in Europe, as their day begins!!!

I have to say, it has rained every Xmas Day I have been here! About 4 the clouds roll in and it cools down a bit etc.

Boxing Day here is famous for 2 things: The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne (100,000 people watching cricket) and the Sydney- Hobart yacht race!!

Then everyone is on holiday until after new Year – massive here in Sydney with 1m plus people Harbourside and alcohol free for fireworks – which are spectacular!!!!

How do they celebrate Christmas in…

Over the last two Decembers I have published a series of posts about how Christmas is celebrated in different countries. There are quite a few of them now, and I shall be continuing the series in future Decembers, so I decided it would be useful to have a round-up of them.

So, if you want to know what the Italian “urn of fate” is all about, who delivers the Christmas presents in Spain, what chilly tradition they have in Greece, how to say Happy Christmas in French, or what they eat for Christmas dinner in Greenland…click the relevant links below.

If you live in a country not yet covered and you would be interested in writing a post for next year in return for a link back to your own website then please get in touch.

Canada (West Coast)
South Africa
USA (New York)

How do they celebrate Christmas in Canada?

Many thanks to Karen Percy for today’s guest post.

There are a lot of similar Christmas traditions between Canada and the UK. To get ready for the big event, we’ll put up the tree we just bought from a Christmas tree farm, or better yet, cut one down ourselves at the U-Cut. Almost every house on the block will be covered with lights from top to bottom and you may hear carollers in the street. Christmas Eve, some will attend a church service and, once home, the kids will be giddy and excited, with some being allowed to open just one gift before bedtime. They leave out cookies that mom baked for a cookie exchange or at a cookie-baking party and milk for Santa with a side of carrots for the reindeer.

Christmas morning, the kids are up early, typically opening stocking gifts first with presents to follow. After all has been opened, a breakfast or brunch of eggs, bacon (here called streaky bacon), waffles, and/or pancakes or, our favourite, Christmas Morning Wifesaver will be enjoyed.

Playtime and dinner preparation fill the rest of the day until it’s time for dinner. As in the UK, we all end up with a belly full of turkey smothered in cranberry sauce, mashed potato, and green beans. Christmas dinner will be eaten either on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or Boxing Day, (or all three if you’ve got lots of family to visit). You’ll also find stuffing at our tables, but not the pork-sage-bread crumb ball kind. Instead, you’ll find Canadian turkeys traditionally stuffed with a cubed bread-celery-sage type stuffing. Loads of rich, thick gravy will be poured on top. For pre-dinner drinks, you’ll find adults sipping glasses full of rum and eggnog as they admire the gingerbread houses carefully decorated by the kids. And you won’t find mince pies, Christmas pudding or fruit cake for dessert on Canadian tables. Rather, we opt for plates showcasing a variety of goodies like nanaimo bars, sugar cookies, molasses cookies, and lemon bars, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll find Cornflake Candy Cane Ice Cream, a concoction of candy cane ice cream covered with a mixture of Cornflakes, brown sugar, nuts, butter and coconut. While not traditional, it has been a family favourite in our house for years.

The rest of the time is spent with family and friends, with some holding an Open House where loved ones can just drop in throughout the day. In our neighbourhood, we would take the party from one house to the next, each house serving different food and tasty cocktails whilst the kids are at home enjoying their new toys, babysat by one of the local older kids who make a fortune for the happy party parents upon collection. Boxing Day is a different story. It’s similar to Black Friday in the States where products are heavily discounted. Some camp out and wait for hours for the stores to open so they can get the best deals.

You can find Karen at Kaper Creative

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Greenland, How do they celebrate Christmas in Russia, Christmas in New York, How do they celebrate Christmas in South Africa, How do they celebrate Christmas in Greece, How do they celebrate Christmas in Italy

How do they celebrate Christmas in Greenland?

starChristmas trees have to be imported, mostly from Denmark, because trees don’t grow that far north. Every village puts a tree on the nearest hilltop so that everybody can see it, and then people decorate their own Christmas trees on 23rd December. Most houses also have an illuminated star in their windows. It doesn’t get light in the winter in this part of the world, so these stars look especially festive in the darkness.

Greenland is believed to be where Santa lives, and so children write him letters which are delivered to the post office in the capital city, Nuuk. Santa gets around by sleigh in Greenland, but he doesn’t need his flying reindeer here so it is pulled by dogs instead.

white parkaThere are church services on Christmas Eve, and the people usually wear either their national costumes, or the famous ‘white parkas’ to show that this is a festive occasion.

On Christmas Day, the men look after the women and serve their meals – even stirring their coffee for them! Traditional foods eaten at Christmas are mattak (whale skin with blubber), kiviak (the raw flesh of little auks, which is wrapped in seal skin and left to decompose), fish and stew dishes.

If you want to wish someone a happy Christmas you would say “Juullimi Ukiortaassamilu Pilluarit.”

New Year is celebrated twice in Greenland – once at 8pm when 1st January arrives in Denmark, and again at midnight. On both occasions fireworks are set off, sometimes accompanied by the Northern Lights!

Related posts: How do they celebrate Christmas in Spain, How do they celebrate Christmas in Denmark, How do they celebrate Christmas in GreeceHow do they celebrate Christmas in Russia, Christmas in New York, How do they celebrate Christmas in South Africa

Christmas in New York

Rockefeller treeAmerica being so vast, Christmas Day will vary a little state by state, especially when you think about the traditions of the southern states and the heat of California. So my contribution to this ‘Christmas around the world series’ is concentrating on NYC. Apart from the fact that New Yorkers see themselves as a separate entity to America (in a good way), a bit like London seems to be separating itself from the rest of the UK (in a bad way).

In any case, that’s where I’ve spent more Christmas days abroad and a couple of Thanksgiving days too. Which brings me onto my first point; in my 25+ years’ experience of visiting New York, Thanksgiving is decidedly more of a family orientated day off than Christmas. As it’s only a month before, if people have to choose just one flight home, they are more likely to choose Thanksgiving. Dec 25th is the only public holiday, as there is no Boxing Day in America and the only other one is New Year’s Day so people are more likely to stay put and get then and spend NYE with their friends too.

So what I have got up to on Christmas Day in New York? For the first time, I treated myself to a stay in Waldorf Astoria. The iconic hotel, as cosy as it can be for such a huge old building, is mainly full of, well-to-do, young American families who no doubt want to get away from domestic chores for a few days.

Rockefeller ice rinkOn Christmas morning, I skip out of my room (tiny – the cheapest, but still, it’s the Waldorf!!) and the maid says ‘good morning’ as I wait for the lift. I bump into a few people and everyone politely greets me, as I do them. It’s not until I go outside onto Park Avenue that a passing soldier smiles with a ‘Merry Christmas mam.’ So that is the first time ‘Christmas’ is uttered. Had it been Thanksgiving, everyone from the door staff, coffee shop servers and drug store cashiers would have said ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ Instead of ‘good morning’.

It’s my first time away from a family Christmas and I even pre-book my festive lunch in their restaurant (upwards of $100 for a roast turkey buffet even all them years ago) which is full. I’m seated within eaves-dropping range of a Florida doctor and his young family. I told all my friends that Jude Law was on the table opposite, sitting with a large group but that could have been a doppelganger of course. (I wouldn’t really know exactly what he looks like quite frankly but they chose to believe me).

On other visits, I have seen snow although that tends to come when the winter proper comes in January/February so Christmas is relatively mild. Although, unseasonably, my very first visit to New York for Thanksgiving, it snowed – for the first time in a gazillion years if I recall rightly. It did mean I couldn’t be asked to go to Macy’s Parade with The New Kids on the Block, yes, that’s how long ago it was. But I made up for that by going to the Parade some years later on a sunny blue sky, day.

Central parkIn America, the block buster films are released on December 25th so I have seen those once or twice but one of the best Christmas evenings ever was seeing Jersey Boys on Broadway. I’d tried to secure tickets the year before and this time, I’m so determined I ask an expert to assist. The ticket is bought, the gold knitted dress is packed – trust me, it looks much better than it sounds and comes out every year – and then I have a little disaster with the boots I was going to wear.

I’d been out for traditional long walk in Central Park after brunch and came back for a refresh before going out much later for a turkey lunch in a different local diner. When I went to pop my boots back on, the zip broke! The disaster being that I’d only bought one pair as I had fully intended to shop for a couple of new pairs after Christmas. These were the years I was building up my business and didn’t have time to do these things all through the year so not taking spares forced me to go and shop!

This being New York, which has a heavy non-Christmas celebrating Jewish population, especially where I base myself uptown, I knew there’d be shops open, just not the big chains. I put my jeans on over my boots for now, and go shopping on Christmas day. There are four shops that sell shoes within 10 minute from me. Most are selling trainers and casual shoes but one has clothes and a good selection of boots. I buy not one but two pairs of boots. The night is saved!

Jersey Boys still the best musical performance I have ever seen outside of regular bands; worth every cent for a special Christmas day.

City centre dweller Rickie Josen has been writing for 5 years, spending 6 months in New York to (mostly) attend writing school and get addicted to working out of indie coffee shops. So that’s where you’ll find her most days but being a big music fan, she’ll have her headphones firmly on! Rickie travels frequently and having written a book on her great loves, music and travel, the hunt is on to find that one agent that will say ‘yes’ or at least ‘yes, you have some potential. Maybe.’ If on the rare occasion you can’t spot Rickie in a coffee shop, you can find her readily on Twitter @RickieWrites or via her blog.

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