Here are some of the most popular and unusual Christmas traditions in Melbourne – including cricket, carols, and Christmas BBQs. 

It’s that time of year again, when Melbournians untangle the Christmas lights, fire up the BBQ and fight over who has to dress up as Santa Claus. Christmas in the southern hemisphere is a little different to other places around the world. Instead of snow, eggnog and turkey dinner, we have decorated shop windows, seafood feasts and cricket!

Christmas Traditions in Melbourne

Carols by Candlelight

Carols by Candlelight is a great tradition that brings the spirit of Christmas to many Melbournians. Usually held at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl alongside the Yarra River, the carols are sung by local celebrities, including at least one Neighbours star, a TV news presenter who no one knew could sing, and most recent winner of Australian Idol/Australian Got Talent/The Voice. 

Myer Windows 

The Myer Windows Christmas display is an annual tradition that almost didn’t go ahead in 2020. Luckily we stuck to our guns at beating the coronavirus, and the heartwarming window display was able to return for it’s 65th year. Located in the centre of the city, the department store’s windows are decorated with a different Christmas story each year. In 2020 it’s a story called ‘Christmas is Uncancelled’. Every year during December it’s a common sight to see families lining up and making their way along the windows, taking in the Christmas tale. 

Christmas Lights

December is the time to pull boxes of decorations out of the cupboard and attempt to untangle strings of Christmas lights. In some neighbourhoods around Melbourne there seems to be a competition to see who can create the most elaborate display (and massively increase their electricity bill). In other areas it’s a community effort, with households coming together to create a Christmas wonderland. A popular activity is to walk these streets in the evenings and take in all the colourful lights and decorations. 

Prawns and Christmas BBQs

Never mind a roast dinner, a Christmas feast in Melbourne is all about fresh seafood and a good old Aussie BBQ. There’s no hard and fast rule for what to put on the menu for Christmas in Melbourne. But the warm weather is a great excuse to get outside, so salads, seafood and BBQ are popular choices. With such a multicultural population in our city, if you were to duck into people’s backyards on Christmas day, you’d no doubt find a huge array of foods being enjoyed!

Sweaty Santa

It just wouldn’t be Christmas in Melbourne if Santa Claus didn’t make an appearance. At family celebrations if the real Santa can’t make it, then it’s usually an (un)lucky uncle who gets the gig. Donning a full red, fur-lined Santa suit on what is usually a scorcher of a summer day, is never an easy job. But the smiles (or looks of terror) on the kids faces makes it all worthwhile.   

Boxing Day Test

The day after Christmas is when the annual Boxing Day cricket match kicks off. The first day of the five day test is a must-watch for cricket fans. For those who watch live, it’s one of the best and most boisterous days on the cricketing calendar. For everyone else, sitting at home on the couch with the air conditioner on and a plate full of Christmas leftovers, is how it should be done. 

What to do in Melbourne this Christmas Season

Take a Tour 

Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour 

See one of Australia’s most iconic views – the spectacular Twelve Apostles – at the perfect time of day. A sunset visit to this incredible coastline is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Melbourne. Start the day with a later departure time than most tours. However, because of daylight savings at this time of year, you will have a longer day and fit more into your Sunset Tour – for the same price! Avoid the crowds as you journey along the Great Ocean Road, and be ready for an incredible show to end the tour.

Phillip Island

The ultimate Melbourne wildlife tour – including the world-famous Penguin Parade. Our Phillip Island Tour is the best way to meet Australian wildlife up close. Capture your magic moment hand-feeding a kangaroo, cuddle up to a koala, and watch as thousands of Little Penguins waddle right past your feet. This tour from Melbourne visits the Brighton Bathing Boxes, Moonlit Sanctuary conservation park and the nightly Penguin Parade. Because of daylight savings at this time of year, we have more tour time before the Penguin Parade and will visit extra destinations on the island including Woolamai Beach and the main township of Cowes for dinner.

Watch a Christmas movie in the open air 

Enjoy the warmer weather in Melbourne at Chrstimas time by spending an evening at one fo the city’s open air cinemas. Operating only in summertime, you can catch a film at the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens, or at Melbourne’s quintessential Rooftop Bar. There is a program of movies over summer that include latest releases, iconic favourites and of course, some Christmas classics thrown in as well. 

Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens

Spend a summer’s day relaxing and exploring Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens border the Yarra River and have more than 50,000 plants and 8,500 different species.

To take a tour of the gardens, we recommend the Aboriginal Heritage Walk which you can visit as a self-guided experience, or with an Aboriginal guide. 

Shop for Aussie Christmas presents

Buy some Aussie Chirstmas presents for your loved ones at some of MElbourne’s many shopping strips and malls. The most iconic is the Bourke Street Mall with top brands including Australian department stores Myer and David Jones. For the classic Melbourne arcades, visit the European-inspired Block Arcade or the oldest shopping arcade in Australia, Royal Arcade.


Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator