Sydney Expat Interview Series Part 6: Christmas Down Under

holidays, Sydney Expat Interviews

The Christmas season can be one of the most disorienting times for expats in Australia. Not only are we away from family and friends, but our long-held traditions for a winter holiday become hard to maintain when celebrating in the summer. “What is Christmas like in Australia,” has to be one of the questions I’m asked most frequently by friends from home

For this month’s installment of the Sydney Expat Interview Series, I asked the expats to tell me their thoughts on Christmas in Australia. For some, this will be their first Christmas. Others are seasoned veterans. 

This is the 6th in an 18 part interview series with expats living in Sydney. I know the expats with blogs and websites listed here would love for you to give them the gift of a visit and follow. And for my Christmas present, I hope you’ll also follow Between Roots and Wings on Facebook and/or subscribe via the box on the right. Happy holidays from Down Under!

Sydney Expat Interview Series - Australian Christmas


Question 6: Tell me about Australian Christmas. 

Name: Shane
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 1 year
Shane blogs at Sea Salt Secrets

Very strange for me not to have a Christmas where I crave being bundled up in front of a cozy fire sipping hot cocoa. Instead I was soaking up rays on the beach. Felt like a destination holiday!



Name: Ashley
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: 2 years (in Newcastle)
Visit Ashley on Instagram

I miss “real” Christmas. Cold weather, real trees, real pine preceded by pumpkin and apple picking. Christmas here is really, really odd. You have to really put energy into it to make it feel like a Christmas from the US. It’s HOT! People are Christmas shopping in shorts and “singlets”. It’s just weird. The decorations are summery…think surf type ornaments and snowmen. But what’s even weirder is finding all the snow themed decorations because in Australia…snow…at Christmas? No. Won’t happen!

The other part of Christmas I miss is having my big Italian family around. We would always have a massive Christmas Eve together then split into our families for Christmas day. We’ve had two Christmases here and the 2nd one was a bit better but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. It’s like trying to make Christmas in July in America. It just makes no sense!
Sydney Expat Interview Series - Australian Chrismas 2


Name: Victoria
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 5 years
Victoria blogs at The Freedom Travellers  

Just not like Christmas at all! There’s not much hype and I don’t feel any pressure to spend hundreds on Christmas presents. Beach, beers and BBQ would probably sum it up best. Hot Christmases are probably something I’ll never get used to!


Name: Debbie
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 10 years
I find it really hard getting into the Christmas spirit, having lived all my life in the northern hemisphere, with Christmas in the depths of winter, short freezing cold nights etc. to then move here and have to wait til 8pm to go and see Christmas lights, and wandering around in shorts and t-shirts, it’s all a bit odd.
Australian Santa

Photo via Debbie


Name: Rachel
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 3 years, 8 months

I celebrated my first Australian Christmas just last year, having journeyed back to the UK for the previous two to spend it with family and friends. But 2014 was very memorable as my Mum visited me in Sydney and we celebrated together. Mum and I escaped for a much needed pre-Christmas mini break to Fraser Island in Queensland, and flew back to Sydney on Christmas Eve.

It was certainly memorable experiencing a ‘hot’ Christmas and the atmosphere in Sydney was different to back home in England, with people wearing Santa hats on the beach and hearing Christmas jingles in the stores. But tinsels and the fake snow without the cold temperatures just isn’t right! Christmas has to be cold, sitting around the fire with a mulled wine and a fire blazing.

We tried to keep things as traditional as possible, and headed to an early morning Church service and then went to the beach for some champagne picnic with friends and a traditional turkey lunch at home.


Name: Julia
Country of origin: UK
Lived in Sydney: 6 years

Forget about having roast potatoes, gravy and stuffing. I was so so disappointed my first Christmas, as I presumed it would be just like the UK, only everyone would be wearing sunnies and sun hats!! I was so wrong – its cold meats, seafood and salads. I now just think of Christmas day just like an extra special BBQ that way I don’t get so disappointed. I really miss a proper Christmas meal, with all the trimmings.


Name: Dido
Country of origin: India
Lived in Sydney: 1.5 years

Hot, in shorts or thongs at the beach. Lots of skin in Christmas parties. Beautiful trees in malls and streets. Beautiful carols in churches.


Name: Caitlin
Country of origin: England
Lived in Sydney: 11 months
Caitlin blogs at Where’s Wallis

Still to be experienced, but I’m looking forward to it. Also the ‘July Christmas’ I’ve heard talk of.Australian Christmas Tree at The Rocks


Name: Mollie
Country of origin: USA
Lived in Sydney: 4 years

Not really like Christmas…just enjoy the weather.

Name: Kirstie
Country of origin: United States
Lived in Sydney: Since September 2013
Kirstie blogs at Venga Vale Vamos 

I’ve gone home for both Christmases, but I have experienced Christmas season here. Although California can be pretty toasty at Christmas time, I’m still really confused by the weather heating up as Christmas comes near. If Christmas is in summer here, what is there to look forward to in winter? That’s why I hosted a Christmas in June for my friends!


Name: Nom de geurre – “Bushranger”
Country of origin: Serbia
Lived in Sydney: 6.5yrs

What’s there to tell mate? Put a few coldies and prawns in your esky, get your budgie smugglers and she’ll be right.


What does Australian Christmas mean to you?

Read Part 5: The Birds!