*** holiday attire: Christmas in Different Countries Oceania

Christmas in Oceania

Figure 1.--.

Celebrating Christ's birth for Christians presented a problem in that no one knows when Jesus was born. It almost certainly was not December. Christmas is celebrated on December 25 throughout Christendom, as the birth of Christ primarily because of the importance of Saturnalia, the ancient Roman festival in honor of Saturn the god of Agriculture, in Roman culture. Besides adopting some of the feartures of Saturnalia, there are many non-religious customs and practices which have developed over the years. These customs are in many cases peculiar to different countries. Germany has played an especially important role, in part because of the Christams traditions Prince Albert brought from Germany when he married Queen Victoria, many of which have since been past on to America. Many modern Christmas traditions are based on these English Victorian traditions. Here are the many Christmas traditions we knpow of around the world. We hope that HBC readers will tell us something about Christmas traditions in their countries.


As Australia was settled by the British, Christmas customs are the descendants of the traditional British Christmas. Christmas in Australia is a bit surealistic because of the summer henisphere season reveral. Thus traditional snowy Christmas scenes make absolutely no sence to Australians who in December face a summer heat wave. As the weather is warm and snow never falls, there are no sleigh rides, or Yule logs, or any other comforts against the cold. The main articles of decoration are the Christmas bell and the Christmas bush. After a hearty afternoon feast, supper may be a picnic in the countryside or at the beach. One tradition that is purely Australian began in 1937 by a radio announcer, Norman Banks who saw a lonely old woman listening to Christmas carols on the radio while a lone candle burned forlornly in her window. The following Christmas Eve he broadcast a great carol sing by all who want to join in , from the Alexandra Gardens along the banks of Melbourne's main river. "Carols by Candlelight" became a joyous annual event and was eventually broadcast in many other countries around the world. Each year, more than a quarter of a million people gather to sing carols and join hands at midnight for "Auld Lang Syne." It is a great showing of community and Christmas spirit that is almost unequaled anywhere else in the world.

East Timor



Hinduism was the first major relihion to reach what is now Indoonsia. Islam began repacing Hinduism (late-13th century) and had become well established by the time the Portugues reached the South Pacific (16th century). As a result, it ould have been the Portuhuese who fiest introduced Christmas to the Indonesians. Dutch traders reached Indonesia at about the ame time. Conflicts developed especially with the inset of the Dutch-Portuguese Wars (17th century) and gradually became the dominat power. The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch United East India Company, VOC) established itself as the dominant economic and political power on Java after the collapse of the Mataram empire. The Dutch Govrment began establishing a formal colonial rellationship after the Napoleonic War (19th century). The Dutch did not actively attempt to convert the Indonesians to Christianity. But ovrtime there were converts and today there are about 25 million Indonesian Christians. Indonesia is one of the world most populace contries witha bout 275 million poople meaning that Chriustians are about 10 percentof the population in this heavily Muslim country. The only other impartant relgion is Hindiuism, primarily praticed on Bali. Indonesia became indepndent (1949). The Dutch left an important imprint on Indonesia and that can be seen in many Christmas traditions. Christmas is commonly called Natal in Indonesia. Christmas trees are popular in Indonesia, but are mostly artificial. There are a real pine trees. We see them in shipping malls and in homes. A craft indusdtry og Chruistmas trees mde out of chicken feathers hs dvlope on Baii. Most Indonesian television channels broadcast Christmas themed musical concerts. They also briadcasgt Hollywood Chriusxtmas movie. The most popular are the Home Alone series. Santa Claus is a very popular holikday figure. He is called Sinterklass -- the Dutch nme. Sinterklass brings presents for to children on Christmas Day. He is also featured in shopping malls for th children. Cookies are a popular holiday treat. with some unique twists. Chiutmas is celebrated on December 25. Christmas musical concerts are popular featuring Indonesian translations of Western Christmas music. One of the facorites is 'Malam Kudus'--Silent Night. This is associated with snow and winter in the West. Interesting that it is popular in a tropical country. The Indonesian government hosts a large celebration (December 24). This is an impresive event, live performances featuring dancing, singing, and theatricals. It is a major affair and constructed at considerable expense and broadcast on Indonesian state-run TV--TVRI. As far as know, his is the inky Muslim country irgabizing a Christmas celevratiion. ndonesian Christians attend a church service on Christmas Day. Roman Catholics usually attend a mass Christmas Eve. Christians services include reading Bible verses and singing hymns. Verses from Isaiah, Luke, and Matthew are most popular. Children are often featured reenacting the Nativity scene.

New Zealand

New Zealand like Australia had a problem in celebrating Christmas. Much of the imagery associated ith Christmas is associated wih snowy, wintery images from Europe and North America in the Northern Hemisphere so very different than Oceania in the South Pacific. While its winter in the Northern Hemisphere, its summer in the Southern Hemisphere countries like New Zealand. Initially the imagery ws that of an Engklish inter. Ober time local imagery and ntive plants have become mixed in with the inherited English tradituions. Kiwis are rather split on Chriustmas traditions. So we see some having a traditional hearty British roast dinner (turkey, ham, lamb or beef, roast vegetables, kumara/sweet potato, and trimmings). Other Kiwi like Australian families are influenced by the warm weather more than tradiion instead chose an outdoor barbecue or beachside picnic. We see fresh seafood and local fare rather than the traditional Englih roast more in tune with the northern hemisphere winter. And Maori families might put hangi on the menu. This is underground cooking where fish and chicken, vegetables and kumara are wrapped. The food is cooked by hot stones at the bottom of a pit and the buried. This produces tender meat. Hangi is a style of cooking prevalenbt throughout Oceania. A major Chtistmas issue is a quarel wih theuir Australian beighbors over a Christmas desert--the pavlova. Ot is a baked meringue pastry topped with whipped cream and fresh summer fruit. There are also traditional English deserts.

(The) Philippines

Pitcarin Island

The photo shows a mother with her five children riding their off-road motor-car. It was taken on Pitcairn Island, one of the most isolated places on earth (December 25, 2012). Notice that there is not the slightest hint of Christmas. Pitcarin is a very small island in the South Pacific. (The isolation is whhy the Bounty headed there.) Cars are not needed because the island is so small. Nor does the Islsnd have the necessary infrastructure for cars. Off road vehicles, however, are handy. Also islanders do not have the cash income to afford cars or the needed gasoline to power them. On Pitcairn Island Christmas is not celebrated religiously because everybody belongs to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a rare Christian denomination that which doesn't celebrate the holiday. The children are not fully aware of what they ae missing out on. Although with the advent of saltellite TV, some must be learning about it.


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Created: December 27, 1998
Last updated: 8:47 PM 6/20/2022