With cold weather and grey skies characterising the winter months in the UK, it is hardly surprising that many choose to take a holiday at the end of the year. Although they are both a hefty flight time away, Australia and New Zealand are popular choices for a winter retreat due to the fact they are experiencing their summer at this time of year. New Zealand is particularly popular currently, due to it being the setting for upcoming Hobbit movie – the prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
But, what do you need to know before boarding the plane?
Most Australian homes and buildings will be decorated in much the same way as those in the UK. Christmas trees and festive decorations are common inclusions, but there are 'subtle' differences in some of the Southern Hemisphere approaches towards Christmas.
To start with, most Australians choose to spend Christmas Day outside where a summer climate makes heading to the beach a popular option. International visitors are unsurprisingly eager to join in this tradition, which often sees the traditional Christmas roast replaced with a barbeque, with as many as 40,000 people making their way to the paradise of Bondi Beach.
It's worth getting involved in Carols by Candlelight - a tradition which began in 1937 and is one of the biggest festive events in Australia. Whilst Melbourne was the city which kick-started this trend, most towns and cities now have their own version of the event which sees an evening spent enjoying festively-themed outdoor concerns. Taking place on Christmas Eve, this is the perfect way to get in the festive spirit.
There's also the famous New Year celebrations in Sydney – these are scenes which are beamed around the world as fireworks from the Harbour Bridge signal one of the first countries in the world to go into the New Year.
In a similar fashion to their Australian cousins, New Zealanders choose to spend their festive season outside in the fresh summer air. Numerous British traditions are followed but you will notice a few slight changes. For example, the Pohutukawa tree, with its festive crimson flower, often replaces the traditional fir or pine trees which fill homes in the UK.
Alongside this iconic and unique symbol, New Zealanders also celebrate Christmas with a strong tradition of Santa parades. Taking place throughout November and December, this trend began in the early 1900s and has grown bigger and better each year. They are often associated with the Christmas in the Park celebration, which takes place in Auckland and will be celebrating its 19th year this Christmas.
Taking place during their summer months, Christmas in Australia and New Zealand conjures a very different picture from that found in the UK. Snowy fields and bitter winds are replaced with warmth and sun – although you're still likely to see a winter scene on their greetings cards.
Temperatures average above 20°C in Australia and 15°C for New Zealand during December, so you'll need to wrestle your summer clothes from the back of your wardrobe when packing. Remember to take a thick jumper or coat for the journey home though.
Flying to Australia or New Zealand will take a considerable amount of time (in excess of 20 hours, to be precise) so you need to be prepared for this. Using a reputable travel firm such as The Co-operative is highly recommended and the company offers plenty of competitive deals to popular destinations including Australia and New Zealand over Christmas.