Growing up in Australia meant a very different feel to Christmas. Of course as an Australian you don’t think it is different until you come to live in Oxford and suddenly appreciate how weird it was that we ate roast turkey on days of 34 degrees celsius when really it is a hearty winter dish!
Not everyone practices exactly the same sort of Christmas traditions in any country, and Australia is a wonderfully diverse country made up of dozens of nationalities all with their own Christmas rituals. But there are some traditions many of us share, such as ‘going for a drive’ to view the Christmas lights decorating the facades and gardens of houses in the towns and suburbs.
An Aussie created a world record this year with his Christmas Light display, helping to raise funds for a charity.
Christmas also heralds the start of the long summer vacation that for many lasts through to the end of January – a bit like August in the UK. Many families head off to beachside resorts for a camping holiday around Christmas time.
The tradition of an Australian Christmas Eve carol service lit by candles was started in 1937 in Melbourne, and these Carols by Candlelight events today range from huge gatherings, which are televised live throughout the country, to local events in small country towns. A clip of Oh Come All Ye Faithful gives you some glimpses of my wonderful home city, Melbourne.
Midnight mass Christmas services are held in many churches as well as services on Christmas morning. On Christmas Day family and friends gather to exchange gifts and enjoy special Christmas food. Although many still have the traditional meal of stuffed turkey with all the trimmings – though Brussel sprouts are not in season, so they rarely are part of the event – the Christmas ham, the roast pork, the Christmas Pudding, and the pavlova all feature. Some Aussies have their ‘Christmas in July’ celebration to really enjoy the meal in proper winter conditions!
The reality is that there are many variations on the tradition of Christmas lunch, and whilst it is not often the ‘barbie on the beach’, as imagined in the UK, cold buffet feasts including crayfish, prawns and oysters, cold roasted turkey, and highly glazed hams feature in many homes. This photo is typical of the images in the newspapers every year:
Some Australians do spend Christmas out of doors, going to the beach for the day, though not in the numbers the press would have you believe. Nonetheless, it has become traditional for international visitors who are in Sydney at Christmas time to go to Bondi Beach where up to 40,000 people visit on Christmas Day.
Christmas parties are often organised throughout December by employers as a thank you to their staff, but the fear of consequential litigation has seen a reduction in these. A search for ‘Christmas parties’ on our Westlaw AU (Australia) database shows that breaches of the Fair Work act, and other employment legislation, is often at issue in such litigation. The wonderful encyclopaedia, The Laws of Australia provides commentary on relevant laws and cases to do with Christmas parties.
A similar search for Christmas related matters on the well known free site, Austlii, is less fruitful, mainly resulting in references to Christmas Island, an Australian territory located in the Indian Ocean. Some of the other free Aussie sites worth a look include Legify , where a single search for the term ‘holidays’ will provide a list of acts from NSW to WA, and federally as well. And the latest, and one of the more sophisticated of the free resources, is Jade where you are able not only to easily find phrases used in cases, but there is also a citator available, in addition to Federal, NSW, Vic and Qld legislation. Timebase provides a really useful news section on developments in law in Australia. Perhaps we can view these FREE online resources as a bit of Christmas gift to lawyers outside of Australia, who just need an occasional dip into Australian law.
For bookish folks our extensive Australian collection at CW Aust will provide many key resources, and the LibGuide will identify the extent of Aussie goodies available.
And finally, Boxing Day in Melbourne would not be complete every few years without a relaxing day at the MCG, enjoying the first day of the Test in an Ashes series.