20th December, 2023

How do Sydneysiders Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas in the Harbour City is truly something special. There's a unique buzz in the air with people embracing the holiday spirit, enjoying the warm weather, and making the most of the array of events and experiences on offer throughout the festive season.

Join us as we delve into everything from the joy of giving and celebrating with loved ones to the long-awaited Christmas feast, Bondi backpackers and keeping cool on a hot Chrissy Day.

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Keep cool on the water

1. Keep Your Cool

Christmas in Sydney is normally hot, so keeping your cool is key. For many that means lazing in the backyard by the pool, heading to the beach or chilling inside in the air-conditioning. If you don’t live in Brady Bunch fairy land, keeping your cool with the extended family is also on everyone’s wish list.

2. The Joy of Giving

It’s hard not to love the face of a child at Christmas and sometimes we go a little overboard on the gift giving. It’s always good to remember the actual present is often the least important to the child. The magic of Christmas is created well before the actual day. It starts with the time spent together sharing Christmas stories, making decorations, thinking of gifts we hope will bring joy to our loved ones. The joy of giving can be insatiable and random acts of kindness break out throughout the city.

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Martin Place Christmas tree

3. Christmas Comes Once a Year

Australia is big and so are the distances between some family members. Christmas often means spending a lot of time travelling by plane or by car. For many Christmas comes more than once with celebrations spread over days or weeks with different branches of the family. Some modern multi-generational families are moving the celebration out of the home and into parks and beaches where larger groups can gather and the preparation falls on the many and not the few.

4. Activites in the City

The energy in Sydney during the festive season is second to none. From the glittering street decorations and store window displays to the joyous sounds of carol singers, there's a sense of celebration everywhere you go. Stroll through Martin Place for a look at the uniquely Aussie Christmas tree and Santa's Workshop photobooth, or the canopy of light along Pitt St Mall. The Christmas markets are a treat, offering everything from handcrafted gifts to delicious festive treats.

Post-Christmas, the Sydney Summer events just keep coming! The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is the next big drawcard, along with Boxing Day sales and of course the cricket at the SCG. Our world-famous New Year's Eve fireworks are a spectacular way to cap off the festive season, bringing in the new year in an explosion of colour. We sure know how to celebrate in style!

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Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach

5. Bondi Backpackers

Spending Christmas Day at Bondi Beach has become a backpacker institution. The usual array of world-travelled bikinis and budgie smugglers are topped with red and white Santa hats and congregate in their thousands. It’s one of the busiest days of the year for Bondi Beach and lifeguards have their work cut out for them. Santa also usually makes an appearance after a long night in the sleigh.

6. Staycations

The build up to Christmas is exhausting. Work, shopping and social gatherings all take their toll. Sometimes our bodies simply cry out for rest and a staycation at home. One of the benefits of a staycation is being able to enjoy all the festive adornments we spend hours decorating our homes with. Now that most outdoor Christmas lights are LED and solar powered, our homes are brighter and more vibrant than ever.

7. Celebrations for the Homeless

Christmas is not just for families. No one should go hungry or feel lonely on Christmas Day. For the homeless and those falling on hard times, Christmas can be a difficult time of year. Charities such as the Wayside Chapel, the Salvation Army, Mission Australia and many churches provide free Christmas Day lunches and celebrations for all to enjoy. These events are usually inundated by people wanting to donate their time, and many singles with no family come just to share time with others.

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Christmas treats and all the trimmings

8. Figgy Pudding Busters

It isn’t Christmas without a Christmas Feast! All our favourites come out at Christmas ranging from traditional roast turkey and ham, to cold seafood platters, figgy pudding with brandy custard and everyone’s favourite pavlova.

9. Faith Matters

Christmas is built on the Christian faith and for many it’s a special time of year to share with the congregation and reflect. Nativity plays, church services, Christmas hymns and carolling play an important role in the Christian calendar. Midnight Mass is the first liturgy of Christmastide, when Christmas Eve gives way to Christmas Day. Many Christian denominations that do not regularly employ the word mass uniquely use the term "Midnight Mass" for their Christmas Eve liturgy as it includes the celebration of Holy Communion.

10. Cultural Festivities

The blend of cultural festivities adds to the charm of our city at this time of year with communities sharing their traditions and celebrations. It's a time when locals and visitors alike come together to enjoy the festive cheer, whether it's by strolling through the illuminated streets, exploring the Christmas markets, or enjoying the diverse cuisine available throughout the city.

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Christmas Cruises on stunning Sydney Harbour

11. Thanking the Host

After the first 20 or so Christmas celebrations even the most ardent Christmas host deserves to hang up their oven mits and be spoilt. That’s when Christmas lunch at one of the big restaurants comes to the fore. In Sydney that means the Harbour and water views are a must. Captain Cook Cruises are one of the few companies open on Christmas Day and provide a fabulous on-water Christmas Day experience complete with Santa and all your festive favourites.

12. If you don’t celebrate Christmas

Christmas isn’t for everyone. So what do you do on Christmas Day when so much is closed? Some of the annual favourites are Taronga Zoo, the cool air-conditioned comfort of the movies, heading the beach (although we would recommend avoiding Bondi and Manly) or packing a picnic. Yum Cha has also become a popular tradition with the Jewish community in Sydney.

However you choose to spend Christmas Day stay cool and let troubles pass you by.

Experiences mentioned in this article

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