Christmas celebrations in the Southern Hemisphere are much different then the celebrations that take place in the Northern Hemisphere. The heat of early summer has an impact on the way people south of the equator celebrate Christmas. In the Southern Hemisphere, the holidays fall when the days are warmest and longest.
While countries in North America and Europe typically use fir trees, warm weather countries and island nations often turn palm trees into Christmas trees, decorating them with lights and island flora and fauna. Australians have a tradition of decorating native bushes with red flowered leaves, while people in the southernmost part of Africa decorate palm trees. When Europeans first arrived in Australia they were delighted that they could pick wild flowers resembling bells and bright green foliage covered in red and white flowers to use as Christmas decorations. This was a huge contrast to the bare trees and dormant gardens they had left behind in Europe.
Although many decorating traditions are shared universally, some are distinctive to certain countries. In Mexico for example, local artisans create highly decorative papier-mâché piñatas made especially for the Christmas season. These works of folk art are ultimately smashed by eager children who want to get at the toys and candy hidden inside.
Families around the world cherish their handcrafted Christmas decorations, whether homemade and passed down from generation to generation, or purchased from a skilled artisan’s workshop. Christmas trees in China and Japan are adorned with handmade paper chains, flowers and lanterns. In Japan, handcrafted origami swans float from the branches of traditional Japanese holiday trees.
Many people in the southern hemisphere, particularly Australians, spend Christmas outdoors by heading to beaches or camping grounds. It has almost become a tradition for International visitors who are in Sydney to visit Bondi beach on Christmas. It is estimated that close to 40,000 people visit the beach on Christmas day.
In former colonies like Australia and New Zealand, the British cultural legacy is still strong. Many people stick to traditional English Christmas foods, including roasted meats and puddings with brandy while others embrace the season and serve an outdoor seafood feast that includes prawns and oysters. A dessert called Pavlova which has a crisp meringue crust and a topping of whipped cream and summer fruits like strawberries, kiwi or passion fruit is one of the most distinctly Australian/New Zealand Christmas dish.
The southern half of Africa, unlike the northern, has majority of Christians. South Africans love a good barbecue any time of the year, and Christmas is no exception. In Mozambique the Portuguese influence is present in Christmas foods like chicken with piri piri sauce and filhos de natal (Christmas fritters).
Though the weather conditions during the Southern Hemisphere Christmas celebrations are in sharp contrast to the icy winter weather underlying European Christmas ceremonies, the spirit of Christmas and the joy and excitement amongst people is very much the same.