Holiday Decorating Down Under

By Kate Riley December 1, 2015

There is so much that inspires me but I must say travel is certainly at the top of the list. Having spent the past two weeks in the southern hemisphere and nine of them in Australia, I was so charmed by the architecture, the people, and the lifestyle.

I’m now fascinated with the way Australians celebrate their Christmas holiday. As you know the weather is the opposite in the States, it’s summer in Australia so their gifting and decorating is warm weather related. I never really thought about celebrating Christmas in warm weather until I witnessed it, which is yet another testament to the value of travel to opening the eyes.

 starfish and shell ornaments

coastal decor christmas entryhomes to love

Airports and tourist spots are all decorated with swags of evergreens and ornaments even with the sun shining down. Here’s a pic I snapped outside the Circular Quay as we were about to board a ferry in Sydney.

 circular quay christmas

In Australia, they also decorate with pine and fir trees embellished with ornaments and twinkle lights. I bought a few Australian mags to inspire while I traveled, inside the pages I fell in love with the sophisticated light and bright styling that appeared within.

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  fir christmast tree

  holiday tree branch

 

 upside down pine tree

star on christmas tree

homes to love 1 / 2  / 3 / 4

Because of the warm weather, many favor a light Christmas lunch instead of a heavy Christmas dinner followed up by a trip to the beach. Can you imagine a sunny summery Christmas? That’s how they do it Aussie style.

 summer christmas table

 summer christmas table

temple and webster 1 / 2

Also their décor is not restricted to evergreen trees, there are palms and ficus and indoor trees festooned with décor as well!

 decorated tree australian style

temple and webster blog

 diy coastal wreath

DIY coastal wreath

Summer is my favorite season so I’m plotting to spend a Christmas and New Year’s holiday with my cousins in Australia in just a few years. Can’t you see why?

Australian readers, I know you’re out there! Tell us Americans more about your Christmas and holiday traditions!

41 comments

  1. Hi Kate, I’m so glad you got to experience a little taste of Australia, I live in Victoria and can’t imagine having a cold Christmas. I still love a lot of Traditional Christmas stuff but admit often the snowflakes etc look a bit out of place, it’s nice to put our own spin on it. Our Christmas lunch is often cold meat and seafood then followed by a festive pavlova for dessert

  2. I can sort of relate. I live in Arizona and we do a lot of the traditional stuff, but also see cacti of all sorts lit up at Christmas. Truthfully, I prefer the traditional. Having grown up in Michigan, the one and only thing I miss about winter is having a white Christmas!

  3. I’m from Australia & there is nothing better than a game of backyard cricket after lunch! Then generally, with full tummies & the hot sun we inevitably fall asleep for an afternoon nap ;) Boxing Day (day after Christmas) is spent at the beach, or riding new bikes in the street or watching kids play with new toys, or backyard water fights or slip n’ slides :) While I’d love to experience a white Christmas one day, I LOVE our Aussie Christmas :)

    • Sounds delightful Tammy, you’re making me want to come back to visit for Boxing Day too!

  4. I’m Australian, the most popular food to eat here on xmas day is seafood. We usually do prawns and a cold ham followed by a dip in the pool! My American husband has never gotten used to a southern hemisphere christmas:)

  5. Hi Kate. I grew up in Australia then married and went to live in the UK for 12 years so I have experienced both ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ Christmas’. I am now back in Oz and I must say that I miss ‘cold’ Christmas’. I am a traditionalist at heart so my family embrace our British roots with Australian twists. We have the traditional Christmas tree (with a coastal touch) and traditional food but also add in the Aussie tradition of pavlova for dessert and seafood as a starter. We eat our Christmas lunch on the verandah overlooking the water and finish the day off with a walk on the beach and a swim!

  6. Hi, Kate. I live in Adelaide (much maligned by the east coasters but I wouldn’t live anywhere else!) but usually spend Christmas with ‘the olds’ at their house in Wallaroo, an old copper mining town on the Yorke Peninsula. Wallaroo is a very popular town for family holidays…good fishing – there are always people squidding from the jetty – and fantastic kid-friendly beaches. Christmas Day means a little sleep in, then sailing and windsurfing if the weather is right. It’s not unusual to see dolphins. Back home early afternoon to start grazing through the day. Last year we started with homemade sushi! There’s usually pickled pork and some roast vegetables as a nod to tradition, but never enough to induce a food coma. The best bit…we’ve almost entirely done away with gifts. Maybe a bottle of sparkling shiraz (to share with cheese during ‘happy hour’ that night), some nuts or chocolates, a kitschy beachy knick knack for the house. It really IS about the food, wine, and spending time with my loved ones. And post-Christmas, if it’s too hot to do much, there’s always the start of the Sydney – Hobart yacht race or the Boxing Day (cricket) Test on TV!

    • I had some delicious Shiraz wines while in Australia, you know how to do it right, they were divine!

  7. I am an Aussie and have never experienced a white Christmas so it has always perplexed me that SO much of the Christmas trappings that are sold in our stores are northern hemisphere-related. While many of us do retain cold-climate traditions passed down from migrant ancestors, mostly (in our home, anyway) we keep it light and as easy as possible. Roast or BBQ with gourmet salads on the side with home-made punch and then puddings for after. A favourite thing for me on Christmas day is jumping in the pool after lunch – to cool off after all the cooking! If you didn’t bring togs (bathers/swimsuits) you just swim in your clothes : ) While we have friends that adorn their yards with snowmen and whatnot, I make a point of not having anything like that around our home so my kids grow up with a more authentic experience of Christmas in a warm climate. I also tend to steer away from the traditional colours of green, red and white and instead choose ornaments that, to me, represent Australian environments such as sunset colours (purples, pinks, golds, silvers) or beach hues (blues, aquas, golds and soft greens). In my opinion they look gorgeous, especially in the late afternoon sun.

  8. Ha! So sweet that you love how we decorate for Christmas! I’m from Adelaide and usually Christmas is super HOT! Christmas lunch is often traditional roasts and dinner is cold meats and salads. Also like Rowena said above, pavlova is the perfect Christmas dessert! Backyard cricket is a MUST and sometimes the pool or beach are involved. x

  9. So glad you enjoyed our beautiful country! I live on the Gold Coast and our Christmas usually involves a casual breakfast, with lots of kids tearing open obscene amounts of gifts, and then we either go to a park by the beach for a big BBQ lunch where everyone brings something to share like sausages, prawns, cold chicken and salads, or if we’re being ‘fancy’ we’ll have a sit down lunch indoors. Our sit down Christmas lunch is typically a glazed ham, stuffed rolled chicken or turkey, lots of salads, cold cooked prawns, and an ice cream dish with cold custard for dessert. I go minimal with the decorating because the extra clutter makes me feel claustrophobic on these hot days, but we use mostly traditional decorations and just avoid snowmen, snowflakes, and sleighs. We were lucky enough to spend Christmas in NYC a few years ago and I have to admit, as beautiful as our summers here are, there was something very magical about Christmas in the snow!

  10. I moved to Queensland, Australia from snowy Wyoming 3 years ago. Talk about a change at Christmas! You are absolutely right about Christmas Day- we pack up and head to the beach. And it’s so hot our oven will probably not be turned on for a few months. We have fresh seafood for lunch. But one of my favorite new small traditions for our family is Christmas “crackers” (pull apart small gifts that make a pop) at dinner with paper crowns for everyone. It is a British tradition popular in Oz.

    • Jen I could never have imagined what a sunny Christmas would be like until I saw how delightful it was, now I can’t stop thinking about it! We laughed at how all the holiday gift commercials were for “fun in the sun” products, where I’d love to be year round if I could :)

  11. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to get a glimpse of an Aussie Christmas! We live in country Victoria in the south and experience a very hot, dry and windy summer surrounded by farm land with no beaches in sight, but we do make an effort to holiday some where near a beach during the summer break. We cut down our own native pine tree from our ‘scrub’ paddock for a Christmas tree and adorn it with a mix of traditional decorations and homemade decorations made from natural materials we find around the farm (gold and silver spray paint turns everything magical!). Solar fairy lights make a nice touch to a feature tree in the garden or around the verandah posts. We have a very large family with lots of children so Christmas Day is the traditional meats with lots of beautiful cold salads, plum pudding and brandy cream/custard of course, but also other cold desserts like pavlova and trifle. The children go outside and have a water fight with water balloons, water guns, slippery slides and sprinklers while the adults rest up in the cool of the air conditioning. Don’t forget the ice-cream cones and ice-poles! However, I do find the very hot weather a little exhausting and it can make the effort of Christmas preparations and celebrations tiring, so simple is usually the best.

    • Sounds like so much fun Alana !! I miss the warmth and casual style I found so much of in your country. :)

  12. A champagne breakfast followed by a seafood lunch followed by a food coma on the couch! Im from Western Australia and you have captured our Christmas perfectly, bright and happy colours to reflect the hot summer weather :)

  13. One of my favourite Christmas traditions is walking through the suburbs after dark looking at all houses decorated for Christmas. Because the weather is so lovely at night it makes for a really wonderful evening. Our favourite house every year is just around the corner from our house, the owners decorate their huge front lawn with lights, a huge tree and life size carousel and two story ferris wheel with giant teddy bears sitting in the seats.
    Lots of the houses that are really decorated also collect money for charity from all the visitors who give generously. It really makes you feel the Christmas spirit.

  14. Kate, I’m miles behind in my blog reading and didn’t know you had been travelling down under! I would like to experience a “White Christmas” one day though do adore our warm festive season. We sip chilled champagne over a light seafood lunch whilst the kids run around like crazy in the backyard.

  15. It’s so interesting to read all of the comments about similar Australian traditions! I could definitely get behind seafood and a dip in the pool. :-) The weather change would be a wild one for me. But absolutely fascinating, too.

  16. Thank you for your beautiful article on Aussie Christmas. I’ve always wanted to take my family overseas for a magical white Christmas, but I have to say my favourite things at Christmas are all related to warm weather. The smell of gardenias, balmy nights wandering around looking at Christmas lights, my kids in pj shorts on Christmas morning bronzed and sun kissed cheeks opening their prezzies, prawns, cold ham, salads, mango, passionfruit for lunch, swimming in the pool. It all just screams holidays! Can you tell I love Christmas hahaha?

  17. As always beautiful pictures. Travel is never wasted thanks for the reminder. I spent Christmas in Australia a life-time ago when backpacking and it was having a Barbie (BBQ) on Christmas Day. I live in eastern Canada so the extreme. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

  18. I am an Aussie living in Japan. So while I have experienced both seasons here in Japan & Oz, our family are counting the days to return to Brissie for some warmer weather. It just feels right. We usually have a lighter lunch on the deck, followed by a dinner consisting of prawns, ham, bbq chicken, Morten bay bugs, washed down with pavlova, mango pudding and trifle. The afternoon is usually spent watching a new dvd movie. I loved that you love our Chrissie style and our mags, the first thing I buy (Home Beautiful) and enjoy when we arrive home! I’ve been a long time reader, so I enjoyed your journey on Instagram and was so thrilled that you enjoyed Down Under with your family!

  19. Well you don’t have to travel around the world for a warm Christmas. We experience this every year in Florida. :-)
    Niki

    • Amen! Florida Christmas is sunny and warm! I kind of feel like we are silly shipping Christmas trees from North Carolina! Should just decorate s palm tree! Right now high eighties.

  20. I live in Florida and it is so nice to see these Aussi Christmas ideas. I can relate to them so much more than the wintery scenes we mostly see in the U.S.

  21. Dear Kate, so glad you enjoyed your time down under. It’s funny, I’ve never experienced a cold Christmas but I imagine it would still be quite familiar, as many of our Christmas traditions, including Santa imagery, cards, songs ( “Let It Snow” seems to be on rotation in all the stores even though it is searingly hot outside!) and food have been passed down from our northern hemisphere ancestors (a lot of Scottish & English traditions in my family). Growing up, we always had a hot lunch-my poor mother would be slaving away over a hot stove/oven while us kids cavorted in the pool. Since having my own family we always have a cold meal. I generally cook the ham & turkey on Christmas Eve, to slice up cold fr xmas lunch. We go to town on the salads. We start with seafood, then finish with a hot plum pudding and lovely cool trifle. Christmas afternoon is really when our official summer holiday begins-most people go away the whole of January, returning to school & work after our Australia Day long weekend (end of January). Because of this big “shutdown”, the lead up to Christmas can be a bit of a mad rush to get everything done, so come Christmas afternoon when the presents are opened, the food is eaten, we can just kick back & relax. Boxing Day (26th Dec) we head down to the harbour to watch the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, then home to the cool air conditioning to watch on tv the first day of the Boxing Day cricket test in Melbourne. You must come back one day for a summertime X as, just as we must come over to you for a white one! Merry Christmas to you and yours, Anne (Sydney, Australia). PS I forgot to mention the other important tradition – taking the kids to visit a sweltering Santa! The stores always have the air conditioning cranked right up for the poor man in his Santa suit!

    • Aw poor Santa! Your Christmas traditions sound absolutely perfect Anne, I look forward to experiencing a real Australian Christmas someday :)

  22. Southern Hemisphere born & bred, no two Christmases are ever the same in our household! We tend to skip on all the usual decorating activities, opting instead to drive through the suburbs at night, in the run-up to the big day, to check out and soak up the spectacularly creative display of lights decking some of the front gardens. Some years we go all traditional and have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve; on other occasions we will go all Aussie and indulge on seafood, BBQ and salads on Christmas Day, while in some years we book a table at a beachfront restaurant and celebrate the occasion together with lots of happy, relaxed diners! It’s all about flexibility and not being tied into pre-determined plans. This attitude has helped free our family from being caught up in the usual trap of trying to please everyone and keep everyone happy. If you front up, you front up; if you don’t, c’est la vie! There’s always next year!

    I’m with Jodie R. The best bit for us is that we don’t do gifts anymore! We’ve skipped all the stress by opting to go down this route, although this rule has been broken on occasion when we choose to make a “secret Santa” of the whole present-giving process, where we set a nominal amount that’s to be spent on the gift we buy. Names are put into a ‘hat’ and each person draws the name of the person they will be buying for. This does away with the tedious task of having to spend hours shopping in the heat in over-crowded shopping malls, while minimizing on the financial outlay at the same time. A win-win for everyone.

    Surprisingly, our laid-back attitude to the festive season has been a big hit with the family, and we see this as the way everyone will eventually go. Call us ‘trailblazers’, if you like! ;-)

  23. Growing up in Queensland, Australia Christmas traditions have usually included: fake tree decorated by us kids listening to Christmas music, driving around to look at houses decorated with Christmas lights (street names are published in the paper and competitions are run), Carols by Candlelight at the park (organised by the council), cold prawns, cold ham and salads and a pavlova dessert for Christmas Day lunch. Everyone pulls their crackers, reads out the jokes and has to wear the silly paper crowns during lunch.Some sort of water games after Christmas lunch (slip-and-slide, water guns, swimming in the pool) as well as some backyard cricket – with adults holding a cold beer of course :) then Boxing Day is spent at the beach eating the leftovers and playing touch footy. My dream is to have a white Christmas though. It would be nice to be able to wear makeup on Christmas Day that didn’t slide down my face after a couple of hours :)

  24. Growing up in Queensland, Australia Christmas traditions have usually included: fake tree decorated by us kids listening to Christmas music, driving around to look at houses decorated with Christmas lights (street names are published in the paper and competitions are run), Carols by Candlelight at the park (organised by the council), cold prawns, cold ham and salads and a pavlova dessert for Christmas Day lunch. Everyone pulls their crackers, reads out the jokes and has to wear the silly paper crowns during lunch.Some sort of water games after Christmas lunch (slip-and-slide, water guns, swimming in the pool) as well as some backyard cricket – with adults holding a cold beer of course :) then Boxing Day is spent at the beach eating the leftovers and playing touch footy. My dream is to have a white Christmas though. It would be nice to be able to wear makeup on Christmas Day that didn’t slide down my face after a couple of hours :)

  25. Growing up in Queensland, Australia Christmas traditions have usually included: fake tree decorated by us kids listening to Christmas music, driving around to look at houses decorated with Christmas lights (street names are published in the paper and competitions are run), Carols by Candlelight at the park (organised by the council), cold prawns, cold ham and salads and a pavlova dessert for Christmas Day lunch. Everyone pulls their crackers, reads out the jokes and has to wear the silly paper crowns during lunch.Some sort of water games after Christmas lunch (slip-and-slide, water guns, swimming in the pool) as well as some backyard cricket – with adults holding a cold beer of course :) then Boxing Day is spent at the beach eating the leftovers and playing touch footy. My dream is to have a white Christmas though. It would be nice to be able to wear makeup on Christmas Day that didn’t slide down my face after a couple of hours :)

  26. Hi Kate,
    Living in Sydney, I know what you’re saying about light meals and trips to the beach, however we’ve never done it that way. Christmas is a day for having roast lamb and turkey, roast vegetables AND salads and lots of yummy sweets and desserts including the traditional Christmas pudding or Christmas cake and custard and cream. We normally have a light Christmas breakfast with a seasonal fruit platter (mangoes, cherries, watermelon, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi fruit and, my personal favourite, lychees) and croissants. We like to blend cultures here. I would not consider going to the beach (too hot, too crowded). As far as decoration goes here, anything goes. From a twig Christmas tree (no pesky falling leaves or pine needles) decorated with strings of beads and baubles, to traditional fake or live pine trees with lights, baubles and tinsel. Decorating here is only limited by your imagination. Happy holidays!

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