If you’re one of those who’ve stopped dreaming of a white Christmas, but still like to celebrate the 25th of December, ‘Chrissy’ down-under could be just up your street.
The obvious difference of a summer yuletide hits you the moment you step off your low-cost flight. Temperature-wise, it’s likely to be to 30 above rather than 5 below.
So, there’s no snow, but you’ll recognise all the other traditional trimmings: trees, decorations, Santa hats, carols and the like, they’re all present and correct.
Lovers of carol singing will head for Melbourne where, since 1937, people have turned out with their candles and singing voices to join in with all the old favourites (and a few Aussie variations) at a giant carols by candlelight outdoor concert.
Christmas is the big holiday time in Australia (and New Zealand), schools have finished for the year and many people take time off to get together with family and friends.
Of course, the weather means that Christmas is spent outside around the barbie, rather than huddled in front of the TV. Yes, a few people still stick to the traditional turkey and trimmings, but with the sun shining and the temperature up, prawns or steak on the bbq with a salad is more likely. Many head out to the beach or picnic spots to do their cooking and feasting, mixed with plenty of swimming, surfing and sun worshipping.
Bondi Beach, outside Sydney, has been the traditional beach for Christmas revels, with as many as 40 000 people partying in their cossies and Santa hats. These days an alcohol-ban has cooled the temperature somewhat on Christmas Day, though you can have a cold ‘tinnie’ the next day.
Still, on the 25th you can dance the day and night away at the tickets-only SunBurnt Christmas festival at Bondi Pavilion, with plenty of top DJs, a bbq and drinks.
If that’s a little loud for you, a Christmas lunch cruise around Sydney Harbour is a more restful way to celebrate. Eat, drink and soak up the views.
The day after Christmas, things get a lot more heated in the harbour waters as nearly 90 or so yachts jostle for position at the start of the world famous Sydney to Hobart
Ocean Yacht race. A cruise boat will get you close to the action before the competitors face a 628 mile sprint through some very perilous seas.
Over in Melbourne, the traditional Boxing Day sport is best watched at the magnificent Melbourne Cricket Oval.
This year, it’s a test match versus India that will draw spectators in the tens of thousands. The Oval is not just about cricket, as it is the home of Australia’s National Sports Museum. Besides cricket, naturally, you can discover the great Aussie history and tradition behind their Olympic achievements, and the brutal creature that is Aussie football. You’ll also come face to face with Australian sports greats in the Hall of Fame.>
Boxing Day is also the beginning of the retail madness that is the post-Christmas sales. Stand clear if you’re not in the queue for the store opening, these shoppers are serious about saving money.
If shopping is your idea of hell, and getting back to nature means more than a towel on the beach, the top end of Australia is the place to go. It’s the rainy season up in places like Darwin, but for a taste of the real, rough-and-ready Australia you’re in the right place.
If you’ve got a couple of tips on having a great Christmas down-under, don’t keep them to yourself. Let us know.