Is Christmas celebrated twice a year in Australia?
Photo: Flickr CC: Sarah_Ackerman
No, the real Christmas only happens once a year - on 25 December. In Australia it's a national public holiday and people observe the day with friends and family, coming together to swap presents and enjoy good food and drink.
It can be hot and humid during December, which is in the middle of summer in Australia. So Christmas is celebrated differently here compared to the northern hemisphere, where it's the middle of winter.
In Australia it's more likely we'll have beer on the beach, rather than mulled wine and markets, which is what happens in Europe. The food eaten here will also be lighter, with seafood a popular choice.
So why is there also a Christmas celebration during July?
Photo: City of Sydney Archives, Sydney Reference Collection
Australia has British and European heritage, so there's a strong attachment to the tradition of celebrating Christmas in cold weather. That's why there's 'Christmas in July', which is also known as Yulefest or Yuletide in Australia.
July is generally the coldest month of winter, so celebrations emulate the atmosphere of the northern hemisphere winter. So that means hearty food like roasts, and warm drinks in front of fireplaces and bonfires.
Christmas in July does not replace the real Christmas in December, and is enjoyed as an extra celebration. It's not an official holiday and it's not celebrated by everyone, but its popularity is growing.
Read: Ruth Macklin's experience of Christmas in July on ABC Open
Where does the concept come from?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, BD Mills
The phrase 'Christmas in July' is also found in other countries in the southern hemisphere like New Zealand and South Africa.
There was a Hollywood movie called Christmas in July (1940). However, the film is not believed to be the origin of the phrase's use in Australia, which seems to date from around the late 1970s to the early 1980s.
No one seems to know for sure where the concept comes from, but it's rumoured to have originated with a small group of people creating the occasion in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
Do Australians have a 'white' Christmas in July?
Photo: Sovereign Hill Museums Association
Most of Australia doesn’t receive snow during July so most Christmas in July celebrations occur without it.
There’s been a cold snap this year which has led to weird, wonderful weather in Australia so there's much more snow fall than usual. For example, it's currently snowing in the Blue Mountains, which is adding to the celebrations by creating a cosy atmosphere.
But at some celebrations such as Sovereign Hill's Christmas in July, fake snow was required. Sovereign Hill is an open air museum in Victoria which depicts Australia's gold rush era of the 1850s. It's a popular tourist attraction that's recently introduced 'Christmas in July' into its annual program.
Do people give Christmas in July presents?
Photo: ABC: Sheila Pham
The celebration is mainly used as an excuse for people to have private gatherings with family and friends, but it's also used as a reason for public events and ticketed functions.
Christmas in July is increasingly being used for commercial purposes, like this display of trees in Sydney’s Pitt Street mall this year. Aside from the festive decor, hot coffee and warm popcorn were served for free to encourage people to go shopping.
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