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An Aussie Christmas Experience

The differences between Christmas in Canada and "down under."

In less than four weeks, I’ll be boarding the plane to head home for Christmas and to see my friends and family for the first time in two years. I am so excited that I can barely contain myself. As many benefits as there are to living in such a beautiful country as Australia, the major downside is that I am on the complete opposite side of the world to those that I love most. At times the distance can seem unbearable, but in a few shorts weeks I’ll be home.

With the holiday season upon us, it’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas for me has always meant Christmas music playing in the house, at work, in the car, and on the radio from November through December. It means bundling up against cold days and warming up with hot chocolate. Christmas is putting up the tree with my family while the instrumental Celtic music plays in the background (much to my father's dismay). And, of course, it means hoping for snow.

Christmas in Australia means none of those things.

Last year I had just started my new job a couple months before the holidays so I wasn’t able to get enough time off to fly home. And while I was devastated to miss Christmas with my family—it was my first one away from home—it did give me a great opportunity to see how the Aussies spend their Christmas. And it is quite different than what I grew up with.

Let’s start with a few key differences between Canadian and Australian Christmas:

At home, we hope for a white Christmas every year. There is nothing quite like a fresh white blanket of snow coating all the houses, cars and yards to give you that warm fuzzy feeling inside and really make it feel like a traditional Christmas.

In Perth, they get a white Christmas every year! Aussies love to head down to the beach on Christmas day and lay out on the bright white sandy beaches, barbequing and tanning for the day.

At home, we love to have ugly Christmas sweater parties and get all bundled up against the cold.

In Perth, they put on their board shorts and bikinis for the day. And what I absolutely loved last year was that they all head down to the beach in their summer gear but they still get in the spirit—every single person at the beach on Christmas day had on their bright red Santa hat. It is definitely a sight to see.

In Canada, we are fighting the cold and need a big hearty meal of turkey and potatoes and stuffing and gravy to warm us from the inside out on Christmas night. We wash it all down with big hearty red wines or a Bailey’s coffee.

In Perth, Christmas falls right in the middle of summer, during the hottest time of the year. All of that heavy food would be unbearable. Instead, they have a big seafood dinner with prawn cocktails to start, and crab and crayfish as the main course. Red wines are too heavy for this time of year so instead they drink chilled sparkling shiraz. (I haven’t been brave enough to attempt that one yet.)

At home we love to have Christmas music playing everywhere from home to work to the shopping centres.

In Perth it was rare for me to hear any Christmas music playing. I even downloaded an app to play Christmas music all day in my office and one of my colleagues said I was like an old lady! He said only his mother listened to Christmas music.

While there are a whole lot of differences between an Aussie Christmas and a Canadian one, there are a lot of similarities too. Christmas is still about being with the ones you love, about celebrating life and love and being together. While I had a really tough time being away from my family last year, I am lucky enough to have people here who are close enough to be family. We all spent the day together mixing traditions from home with newly adopted Aussie traditions. And while I was seriously missing my family and friends, I can't complain too much about spending the day in the pool with a few ciders followed by an evening of amazing food and great company.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Gillian Arfin

Gillian Arfin is from Oakville, Ontario. After years of travelling and backpacking and constant itchy feet, she has found herself settled in the most isolated city in the world--Perth, Western Australia. Curious what it’s like to live on the other side of the world? Read what Gillian has to say about it.

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