Christmas in Australia

Whilst a lot of people from mainland France find spending Christmas in Reunion to be a little strange, coming from Australia I find it completely normal to celebrate Christmas and New Year under the burning sun. There are however a few differences between the way the French and the Aussies go about Christmas festivities.

Starting with the 24th of December which in Australia is a little less formal than it is in France. Most people try and finish work early but the evening is not necessarily spent with the family. Quite often we catch up with friends and go out for a drink or two. Carols By Candlelight, which is an outside concert where people sit on blankets, light candles and join together to sing Christmas Carols, is a major event of the silly season. The one in Melbourne is rather spectacular and generally televised live across Australia on the 24th December. Then before going to bed, kids usually leave out cookies and a glass of milk to keep Santa happy.

Our big celebration takes place the following day, on the 25th.  The number of drinks that were had the previous evening generally determines what time things get going on Christmas Day, unless of course children are involved, then parents are usually jumped on rather early and beckoned to the tree to open the presents that Santa left.

Australia is an extremely multicultural country and with this, our traditions are often derived from a mixture of other countries. There is thus no set ‘way’ to do Christmas in Australia, rather a charming mix of traditions depending on your particular family. In my family for example the first cork is usually popped around 11am, and friends call in for a quick drink before lunch. Lunch in Australia is the main Christmas meal. Meats such as turkey, chicken, pork and lamb are served with hot vegetables and other side dishes. Seafood is also very popular as an entrée or even a main course. Dessert is often a Pavlova coated with cream, strawberries and passionfruit or it can be a traditional English pudding with warm custard. Mince Pies, lollies and Christmas bonbons often decorate the table. Christmas lunch can often be a barbecue in the backyard or a picnic on a beach. As Christmas coincides with the Summer Holidays, quite often families will celebrate Christmas away from home.

The afternoon is usually spent relaxing and feeling quite lethargic after such a huge lunch. The evening meal is generally leftovers from lunch (of which there are usually enough to last a couple of days) or we may go to our in-laws for dinner, visit friends or have friends over for a light meal.

The weather is variable at this time of year, it can be between 20 to 40 to 50 degrees depending on where in Australia you are.

The 26th of December (Boxing Day) is also a public holiday in Australia, this is one thing I really miss in France. Lucky my partner is from La Moselle so when we go back to mainland France, this traditions is also applied. In Australia, traditionally it was the day when servants received gifts from their superiors or employers known as a “Christmas Box”. Today throughout Australia, popular activities on this day include digesting the meal from the previous day (in other words, relaxing), going to the beach, braving the first day of Christmas Sales, watching the Melbourne cricket test match or the stunning start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race or just catching up with friends… for a drink.

Vocabulary

Blaring – brûlant
Aussie – un/e australien/ne
Festivities – les fêtes
Catch up with – aller voir / retrouver
Warm – chaud   

Silly season – période de Noel / Nouvel An
Santa – Père Noël
Get going – démarrer
To beckon – appeler
Cork – bouchon   

Call in – passer
Turkey – dinde
Lamb – agneau
Side dishes – accompagnement
Pavlova – gâteau australien   

Custard – crème anglaise
Backyard – une cour arrière
Huge – énorme
Parents-in-law – beaux-parents
Partner – mon ami/e   

Servants – domestiques
In other words – autrement dit
To brave – affronter
Sales – les Soldes

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