Christmas in Australia: Christmas Eve and Day
On Christmas Eve many Australians attend carol-singing events known as "Carols by Candlelight.” Norman Banks, a radio announcer from the city of Melbourne, started this tradition in 1938. It is said that while walking the streets on Christmas Eve of the previous year, he caught a glimpse of an old woman through a lighted window. She was sitting all alone next to her radio, holding a lighted candle and singing along with the Christmas carols that were being broadcast on the radio. The sight warmed his heart and also stirred him to create an event for those who found themselves alone on Christmas Eve. The following year he organized and broadcast "Carols by Candlelight,” a sing-along caroling session in which participants held lit candles. The observance became more and more popular and eventually spread from Melbourne to other cities. Each year thousands of Australians attend these events, usually held in outdoor amphitheaters so that people can enjoy the balmy summer evening air as they listen to musical performances and sing the songs of the season amidst a sea of glowing candles. In addition to the traditional European tunes, a number of original Australian Christmas carols may be sung, such as "The Melbourne Carol,” "Six White Boomers,” and "The Three Drovers.”
Australian children have their own version of the Christmas stocking, which often makes its first appearance on Christmas Eve. Before going to bed Australian children hang pillowcases from the ends of their beds. Santa leaves small gifts in the pillowcase; he deposits larger gifts under the Christmas tree.
Many Australian families open their presents over breakfast on Christmas morning. Religious people will also attend church. Later that afternoon many people enjoy listening to the Queen of England give her annual Christmas speech on the radio (see also Christmas in England).