© 2016 by KAYLEE RANDALL.​

What It's Like to Live Abroad: My First Christmas in Australia

January 21, 2019



Thanksgiving in Australia was deliciously successful, making me so excited to spend Christmas here and get a real taste of the holiday season down under.


Christmas in Australia had far less roadblocks than Thanksgiving, probably since Christmas is a worldwide phenomenon, whereas Thanksgiving is certainly not. But there were a few differences between Christmas in America and Christmas in Australia that seem worth a mention.


First of all, it’s the southern hemisphere and it’s summer for Christmas.


Summer starts on December 1st in Australia and in Queensland (where I live) the climate feels  a lot like living in Florida (where I’m from). Less humid perhaps, but yea – it’s hot. 


Here's a map in case you have no idea where Brisbane is located.




The point is, Brisbane is about halfway down the east coast. And remember, it’s the southern hemisphere so the more northern you are, the hotter it is. Imagine how smoldering it gets up in Darwin this time of year. Surely, I don’t want to know.


Another thing is, I saw maybe four Christmas light displays on houses. 


Actually, there’s less décor overall. Sure, the malls (called the shops here) are done up for Christmas and you can meet Santa and all that. But not every house on the street has a lawn full of reindeer and a spectacle that nearly blinds you.


It’s actually a family outing to go and see the Christmas lights. Town Hall has a light show with a huge Christmas tree in the square and one of the parklands near us had an enchanted forest.


All I know is, you can drive down almost any street in America and get a light show. Not here.


Eggnog is not popular.


But, unlike my Thanksgiving search for cranberries, I actually found a carton of eggnog at Cole’s, one of the major grocery store chains in Australia. Isaac had tried it once a few years back and was legitimately nervous to give it another go. I think he had one sip just to please me. “It just tastes like custard,” was his assessment.


Watch this video of Australians trying eggnog for the first time. It’s quick and enjoyable.




I also noticed that Boxing Day (December 26) is a much bigger deal than Christmas Eve, which is the opposite in the U.S.


My family always has some kind of get-together on Christmas Eve and I’m pretty sure most Americans have similar traditions. For example, you'd spend time with dad’s family on Christmas Eve and mom’s family on Christmas Day. Something along those lines.


In my estimation, this is how Christmas and Boxing Day works in Australia. Boxing Day originated in the UK, which makes sense because Australia is a Commonwealth country. Meanwhile America busted out of there so hard that it’s like we barely admit to ever being British colony.


Apparently, Boxing Day started when British servants were required to attend to their lords and ladies on Christmas Day (hey, Downton Abbey) but were given boxes of goodies to bring home to their families the day after.


Here’s the Wikipedia on Boxing Day for a bit of light reading.


Anyway, we spent Christmas with friends and Boxing Day with family. Both were lovely. But nothing on Christmas Eve. 


I decided to make American-ish dessert for the occasion.


The array of food we had was different from a typical American Christmas, so I decided on apple pie muffins a la mode – a little twist on the U.S. classic. Next time, I’ll try making an actual apple pie. My excuse is that we don’t have fancy kitchen tools yet. You should’ve seen me whipping up some meringue by hand for Isaac’s birthday cake...


Meringue is not for the faint of heart, I'll tell you that much. Get yourself an electric mixer for the task.


Anyway, I think even within the States, Christmas food varies from family to family. Especially in South Florida where people are from all over. I'd assume the same goes in Australia.


Check out this Tasty recipe I followed for apple pie muffins.



Different gift-giving traditions.


Maybe this isn’t an actual difference between America and Australia, but maybe it is. You’ll have to let me know whether this varies between families or between countries. 


For me growing up, we would all sit in a circle and open gifts one at a time. Pretty damn painful for the kids but also kind of nice. You see what everybody got and everyone is together and it's... a thing.


Here, it was more appropriate for everyone to give out and open their gifts at the same time. It’s not a manic free-for-all but it was definitely more "energized" than what I'm used to. There are multiple people opening at once and it becomes a more intimate experience between giver and receiver. Plus, you didn’t have to wait your turn. 


Which way do you do it?


We also played version of White Elephant, but no gag gifts allowed. At least not terrible ones. And you could only steal if you won a game of extreme scissors, paper, rock. Yes, in Australia that’s the order – weird I know.


Then, we were utterly exhausted for at least 48 hours afterward (probably similar to anywhere else in the world) and were annoyed for the next week that nothing was open or operating properly.


Like Carl Pilkington, who you can view below.



Merry Christmas from Brisbane and Happy New Year, too.


What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? Wherever you're from, let me know in the comments.

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