Top 10 South Australian Christmas traditions

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By Melissa Keogh

Some Christmas traditions can only be experienced in South Australia. Where else would you find the kind of nostalgia the West End Brewery Christmas Lights evoke every year?

And forget handfuls of cherries. Thanks to our Adelaide Hills orchardists we eat the favourite Christmas fruit by the bucketload, leaving our lips stained purple throughout the rest of summer.

We camp out at Elder Park in the hot sun to get a top spot for the carols, and we pile in the car and head to Lobethal, feeling just as impressed by the twinkling lights as we did when we were a kid.

Christmas in SA is full of events, markets, activities, and traditions that carry on through generations. Here’s a few of the oldies but goodies you’d be a Grinch to miss.

1. Lights of Lobethal

The small Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal is pretty sleepy, except for in December.

Much of the town decorates its businesses, shopfronts and houses in twinkling lights and Christmas arrays creating the largest community lights display in the southern hemisphere.

It’ll take a couple of hours to get around the whole town, and be sure not to miss Bill and Peg Chartres’s house on the hill of Christmas Lane. Yes, Christmas Lane. The Chartres’s have been displaying lights since the 1980s, with lights, toys and figurines scattered throughout their property.

2. West End Brewery Lights

A child must not reach adulthood without viewing the quirks of the West End Brewery Christmas Displays on the banks of the River Torrens in Thebarton.

You’ll find a nativity scene, a ferris wheel, a water wheel, and Santa and his reindeers among other festive characters and displays.

This free community event is popular with young families, with the lights turning on at dusk each evening until the end of December.

The West End Brewery Lights are a must-visit at least once for every South Australian. Photo by Clive Boyce.

3. Carols by Candlelight 

A classic event for Christmas carol lovers, the annual carols event in Elder Park is the perfect place to belt out festive favourites.

Families serious about the QBE Insurance Carols by Candlelight will arrive early in the day to snag a spot as close to the stage as they can, settling in with picnic rugs, snacks and oodles of enthusiasm.

Brand South Australia has once again partnered with QBE Insurance Carols by Candlelight to offer one lucky person the chance to win a festive hamper full of local products to the value of more than $5000. Enter here.

4. A South Australian seafood feast

Spencer Gulf king prawns, Coffin Bay oysters and southern rock lobster – there’s no shortage of seafood offerings here in SA.

When you buy local seafood you’re supporting SA’s sustainable seafood and aquaculture industries. Ferguson’s Australia, Cappo Seafood, and Angelakis Bros are just a few local names who will sort you out in the seafood department.

Fresh local seafood is a must at Christmas. Photo courtesy of Adelaide Central Market.

5. Beach cricket

Wearing off that seafood feast by playing a good old-fashioned game of beach cricket is almost a Christmas rite of passage in SA. Our state has some of the best white sandy beaches in the country, from the Eyre Peninsula along to the Yorke Peninsula, and Fleurieu.

Many of our coastal towns come alive during summer and especially around the holiday period. The livelihood of their businesses relies on the festive season trade – another reason to keep it local and holiday in your own backyard.

6. Hahndorf Christkindlmarkt

Not yet a longstanding tradition (as it’s only been around for about six years) this European-style Christmas market in the German town of Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is well on its way to becoming an annual favourite.

Held in the town’s main street, the Hahndorf Christkindlmarkt brings the magic touches of a European Christmas market to Australia, allowing visitors to wander beneath twinkling fairy lights, shop for handicrafts and enjoy a glass of Glühwein.

The Hahndorf Christkindlmarkt is on December 14–16.

7. Santa’s Magic Cave

Everyone has at least one embarrassing photo of themselves as a child with Santa.

The jolly man in red can be found at the Magic Cave at David Jones, Rundle Mall, where little ones can put in their last-minute wish lists and pose for that classic shot to be cherished for years to come.

The Magic Cave is a bit of an Adelaide icon, launching in former department store John Martin’s in 1896. Aside from Santa and his elves, other fairy tale characters and other glitzy displays can be explored.

8. Victoria Square Christmas tree

You probably won’t find a Christmas tree taller than this one. The giant Christmas tree in the heart of the city in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga will dazzle with thousands of lights once it’s officially switched on at 8.30pm on December 1.

It’s the city’s Christmas centrepiece and with Victoria Square redeveloped in recent years to include more public furniture and greenery, it’s a place you can hang around and take in with sparkling delight.

The tallest Christmas tree in Adelaide can be found in Victoria Square/Tarntanyangga. Photo by Clive Boyce.

9. Christmas pageants

Christmas pageants and nativity scenes have been around for donkeys’ years and nearly every town has one. It’s a time when the glue guns get a real work out in the making of impressive of Christmas floats and homemade costumes.

Local businesses get on board, as do local schools, sporting groups and community organisations, parading around town and down main streets to kick-start the silly season.

The man in red always makes an appearance and the bitumen is always covered in chalk drawings by the end.

Aside from the big pageant in Adelaide in November, Christmas pageants roll out across our larger metropolitan suburbs to the smallest of country towns.

10. Adelaide Central Market 

This thriving hub is one of the country’s largest fresh produce markets, and right before Christmas it gets crazy.

The stalls are packed with local produce including fruit and veggies, cheeses, meats, seafood, baked goods, smallgoods and other treats needed for your festive household celebrations.

December through to February is the time for stone fruit including juicy, plump cherries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries that will make for the perfect Christmas pavlova. The market’s opening hours are extended in the lead up to Christmas, check out the website for more information.

Header image by Clive Boyce of Photo Morsels.

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