Who doesn’t love Christmas? It’s a magical time when friends and family come together, exchange presents, eat way too much and drink heavily. It’s a time synonymous with the pitter-patter of reindeer hooves, of a warm crackling fire and snow swirling outside… Wait, what?

Let’s get one thing straight – Christmas in Australia is a little bit different. The only thing for sure is that you’ll never forget your first one.
For starters, the land Down Under is mercifully modest when it comes to pre-Big Day hype. Forget the Christmas adverts, TV specials and novelty songs that usually dominate life for months.

And don’t even think about getting a white Christmas – if you’re desperate to get blinded by the brightness, just check out some of the fresh flesh likely to be on display across Bondi Beach come the festive period.

Of course, if you really do miss that Northern Hemisphere atmosphere, make sure you head to the Blue Mountains in winter for Christmas in July, but for now, the Christmas period is the height of summer across Australia (and the school summer holidays – beware!), so expect the country to be hitting the beach, cranking up the barbies and keeping their Eskys well stocked.

With that in mind, enjoy the chance  to be spontaneous and make up the rules, knowing you’ve none of the usual family obligations, other than a couple of quick calls before posting some sickening photos of yourself wearing a santa hat on the beach.

One top tip is to get your phone calls home out of the way in the morning, when it’s still Christmas Eve in most of the world. That way you can boast about the weather and not sound like a drunken tramp… at least until they ring back 12 hours later. It also gets harder to connect calls the later you leave it, as the masses start to jam the networks.

Also make sure you stock up on booze as most bottle shops will be shut on Christmas and Boxing Day. You don’t want to run out or spend hours queuing up in overpriced petrol stations. Likewise, buy as much ice as you can carry/store, and don’t forget the food bit of your barbie as well.

Finally, it’s really not worth ignoring the local laws. In Sydney, for example, the council is very strict on enforcing alcohol bans on Bondi, Bronte and Tamarama beaches. You really don’t want to spend the festive period in the slammer, no matter how desperate you are to be the drunken bloke dragged to safety on the next Bondi Rescue Christmas Special. In fact, try to remember that swimming generally, especially in the ocean, becomes a bit trickier when absolutely smashed!

Okay, that’s the ‘mum bit’ sorted. Now then, here’s some top Crimbo events to get your antlers around…

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Carols on the Beach

WHAT: Take a picnic blanket and enjoy an evening of singing with an all-Aussie lineup including Frankie J Holden, The Drifters    and stars of The Voice, Simon Meli and Caterina Torres.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec 22.
WHERE: Surfers Paradise.
COST: Free.
INFO: surfersparadise.com

Christmas on the Green

WHAT: Enjoy the festivities while cruising Sydney Harbour and feasting on a specially prepared Christmas buffet including roast turkey and Christmas pud.
WHEN: Christmas Day.
WHERE: King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour, Sydney.
COST: From $140pp.
INFO: magisticcruises.com.au

Santa Run

WHAT: Join hundreds of Santas “running for a good clause” in these 5km charity runs across Tasmania.
WHERE: Launceston (Dec 1), Ulverstone (Dec 8)
and Kingston (Dec 14).
COST: $35 (fee includes
a free santa suit).
INFO: santarun.com.au

Carols in the Domain

WHAT: There’s no shortage of carol singing get-togethers across Australia, but this is the biggest of the bunch. It’s on telly and generally gets proper big names – recent years have included Hugh Jackman, Delta Goodrem and, er, David Hasselhoff.
WHEN: Saturday, Dec 21.
WHERE: The Domain, Sydney.
COST: Free.
INFO: carolsinthedomain.com

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Santa Fest

WHAT: Celebrate at Darling Harbour throughout the festive period with a Water Spectacular, Santa Fun Run, Carols by the Tee of Light and huge Harbourside Christmas Fireworks that will light up Sydney’s skies every Saturday in December.
WHEN: Now – Christmas Eve.
WHERE: Darling Harbour, Sydney.
COST: Free.
INFO: darlingharbour.com

Carols in the Caves

WHAT: Join in singing traditional carols with the pros among the brilliantly atmospheric setting of the stalagmites and stalactites. It’s a venue you’re unlikely to forget.
WHEN: Saturday, Dec 14.
WHERE: Jenolan Caves,
Blue Mountains, NSW.
COST: From $38.50.
INFO: jenolancaves.org.au

Oz Party Christmas Eve Cruise

WHAT: Join 600 people
from across the world coming together to share
in the festive cheer (and
the free drinks). Things
will get naughty before they get nice.
WHEN: Christmas Eve.
WHERE: Sydney Harbour.
COST: $89 (includes free drinks and light buffet).
INFO: ozpartyevents.com

Gingerbread Village

WHAT: The award-winning pastry chefs at Epicure’s Culinary Centre present a gingerbread village that will include popular landmarks such as Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne Cricket Ground and Luna Park, all made out of gingerbread.
WHEN: Now – Christmas Eve.
WHERE: Melbourne Town Hall.
COST: Free.
INFO: visitmelbourne.com

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Crown Perth Christmas Extravaganza

WHAT: A sumptuous set menu of Christmas food, live entertainment provided by bands, comedians and DJs and maybe a flutter or two at the end of it all. Dress smart.
WHEN: Friday, Dec 6.
WHERE: Crown Ballroom, Burswood Perth.
COST: $170, including food and entertainment.
INFO: crownperth.com.au

Melbourne Christmas Festival

WHAT: The heart of Melbourne has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland so get out and explore. Town Hall has been giftwrapped and guarded by 3m Nutcracker soldiers and a maze has been set up in City Square for starters.
WHEN: Now – Christmas Eve.
WHERE: Across Melbourne.
COST: Free.
INFO: melbourne.vic.gov.au/christmas

Christmas Day Lunch at Melbourne Zoo

WHAT: Celebrate in a truly unique setting at Melbourne Zoo. The day will include food, drinks and zoo admission, as well as some unusual Christmas Day buddies.
WHEN: Christmas Day.
WHERE: Melbourne Zoo, Elliot Avenue, Parkville.
INFO: zoo.org.au

Carols in all Nations

WHAT: Carols, picnic blankets and a big lineup of local Darebin musical talent. Bring something soft to lie on, a bottle or two of wine and sing along to all your favourite carols.
WHEN: Saturday, Dec 14.
WHERE: All Nations Park, Northcote, Melbourne.
COST: Free.
INFO: darebin.vic.gov.au

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Infinite Choir

WHAT: Visit Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall and take part in an interactive Christmas choir where a walkway of light sculptures and choral sounds are triggered by your presence.
WHEN: Now – Christmas Day.
WHERE: Pitt Street Mall.
COST: Free.
INFO: sydneychristmas.com.au

Neutral Bay Christmas Markets

WHAT: Browse the stalls and find that perfect gift. On Saturday you can decorate your own gingerbread man or build a Reindeer Cup, while you can sing along at the Christmas Carols from 4pm on Sunday.
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Dec 14-15.
WHERE: Neutral Bay, Sydney.
COST: Free.
INFO: facebook.com/neutralbaycommunitymarkets

Christmas Projections

WHAT: Soak up the atmosphere as the walls of Sydney Town Hall are illuminated. Watch in wonder as every evening the George Street facade springs to life with spectacular light projections.
WHEN: Now – Christmas
Day, 8.30pm-1am.
WHERE: Town Hall and Sydney Square, Sydney.
COST: Free.
INFO: sydneychristmas.com.au

Christmas Day Movie Marathon

WHAT: For those who find themselves orphaned on Christmas Day, there will be a festive-themed movie marathon in Melbourne’s Federal Square. Bring your own picnic basket and find a spot among the installation of more than 100 Christmas trees.
WHEN: Christmas Day.
WHERE: Melbourne.
COST: Free.
INFO: fedsquare.com/events

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International Day at the Races

WHAT: Get straight back on it and win back your festive spending (or not…) with a day at Sydney’s top horse racing track.
WHEN: Boxing Day.
WHERE: Royal Randwick, Sydney.
COST: Free (with a non-Aussie passport).
INFO: australianturfclub.com.au

Christmas Santa Sunset Cruise

WHAT: Enjoy a 1.5 hour sunset cruise with views of all the essential Gold Coast highlights including the Surfers Paradise skyline, Sea World and Palazzo Versace, all while singing Christmas Carols with the man himself on board.
WHEN: Sunday, Dec 22.
WHERE: Starts and ends at Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast.
COST: $35.
INFO: wyndhamcruises.com.au

Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race

WHAT: Join the masses on Sydney’s shores to see the harbour fill with boats to mark the start of the iconic annual boat race.
WHEN: Boxing Day.
WHERE: Sydney Harbour.
COST: Free.
INFO: rolexsydneyhobart.com

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Chinese Laundry’s XMAS Garden Party

WHAT: Celebrate the days before Christmas when Chinese Laundry takes over Ivy with a lineup including  DJ Snake, Alex Metric, Martin Horger, Midnight Juggernauts, Kilter and Lancelot.
WHEN: Saturday, Dec 21.
WHERE: Chinese Laundry, Sydney.
COST: From $44.50.
INFO: chineselaundryclub.com.au

Carols in the City

WHAT: Come along to see performers such as Debra Byrne, Colin Buchanan, Mirusia, Mark Lowndes and Ian Stenlake belting out classic traditional carols, modern takes on old favourites and maybe even something new.
WHEN: Saturday, Dec 14.
WHERE: Riverstage, Brisbane.
COST: Free.
INFO: carolsinthecity.com.au

Boxing Day Test

WHAT: It’s one of the biggest days on Australia’s sporting calendar (especially during an Ashes year) – the first day of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tickets will sell out, but head to any pub or the big screens in Federation Square to catch the action.
WHEN: Boxing Day.
WHERE: Federation Square, Melbourne.
COST: Free.
INFO: fedsquare.com