Greeting: “Happy Christmas”
Aboriginal Greeting: “Miri Kirijimiji”
Christmas is celebrated on December 25th in Australia which is the start of summer in the southern hemisphere. It also coincides with the summer holidays which means families will often celebrate Christmas away from home. Students are out of school so it’s time to celebrate and have fun. It would not be unusual to find Australians celebrating Christmas with a backyard barbecue or a picnic on the beach as warm temperatures arrive.
Much of Australia’s population immigrated from England and Ireland and brought their Christmas customs with them. These days Australia is a very multicultural country with a melding of customs leading to a variety of ways in which the holiday is celebrated. Christmas decorations consist of the typical trees and lights seen around the world, but you might also find a snowman made of sand or a decorated Christmas Tree on the beach. In addition to traditional Christmas trees you might find homes, tables and wreaths decorated with local and regional foliage like Christmas Bells, Christmas Bush, Christmas Orchids, Eucalyptus, Palms and Ferns. You might also find the Australian Christmas tree which is covered in bright yellow flowers every summer.
The big event during the Christmas season is caroling by candlelight. Carols By Candlelight is a tradition popularized in Melbourne in 1938. People gather in a large group in a park or at other venues where candles are lit and carols are sung together. This tradition is said to have been started by miners in Southern Australia who stuck candles in their safety hats on Christmas Eve and sang carols. The tradition spread through Victoria and Melbourne and was popularized by radio announcer Norman Banks when on his way home he passed a window and saw an elderly woman alone singing a carol by candlelight. He wondered how many others spent Christmas alone and had the idea to gather a group of people together to sing carols. As they say, the rest is history. Most towns have a concert and larger ones are broadcast across the country.
Being a multicultural population of around 18 million people, the traditional roast turkey dinner might be replaced with duck, pasta, seafood, pavlovas, salads, mince pie, shortbread and foods of many varieties.
Santa is popular in Australia with children writing letters in hopes of getting a favorite toy, but amongst the decorations, lights and cards Australians are sure to remember the real meaning of Christmas. Many attend a midnight mass or service before the gift giving and present opening begins in the morning.
Happy Christmas Australia!