How Christmas is celebrated in Ipswiches around the world

Laura Walker from Ipswich, Australia, enjoying the warm, Christmas weather with her two sons, Henry and Lachlan

Laura Walker from Ipswich, Australia, enjoying the warm, Christmas weather with her two sons, Henry and Lachlan - Credit: Laura Walker

It may be a cliché, but it’s true - there’s no place like home, and any loyal resident of Ipswich will surely claim that there is no place quite like it. 

However, (due in no small part to Britain’s colonialist past) our town shares a name with Ipswiches in Massachusetts, USA, and Queensland, Australia. 

Intrigued, we reached out to some fellow Ipswichians to hear about how they celebrate this magical time of the year. 

In Australia, we assumed our main difference would be the heat, and some residents confirmed this. Resident Karyn Margetts said Christmas Day is usually “hot, humid and sunny, with maybe a storm at night.” 

Laura Walker agreed, saying: "Christmas for our family in Ipswich, Australia, means hot days, summer backyard fun and outdoor activities."

The Australian Walker family enjoy spending the summer December weather outside in the pool.

The Australian Walker family enjoy spending the summer December weather outside in the pool. - Credit: Laura Walker

But new resident of Ipswich, Anthea, countered that temperatures usually peak in February, and it “hasn’t really gotten that hot, yet.” At the time of speaking, it was 7.30pm and “only” 23 degrees Celsius, showcasing the different temperature thresholds among Ipswichians. 

“We moved here in April,” Anthea told us. “We lived in acreage with our horses, but Covid hit us and we needed to consolidate a bit. We were attracted to Ipswich as our daughter was already in school in the area and also, I loved the traditional Queenslander houses in the area. Ipswich is known for its heritage buildings.” 

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She had her first Christmas lunch with her extended family on December 18. 

The Walker family visited a Christmas tree farm not far from their home in Ipswich, Australia.

The Walker family visited a Christmas tree farm not far from their home in Ipswich, Australia. - Credit: Laura Walker

“Like everywhere in the world, lockdown has kept families apart, so we thought we would have our lunch a week early, so everyone could then go and spend Christmas Day with other family members,” she says. 

Their Christmas lunch included “roast turkey and ham, plus salads and roast potatoes and, of course, a pudding. We then headed up to Noosa, Queensland, on Christmas Eve for a beach Christmas.” 

Resident of Ipswich, Australia Laura Walker took her children to see the Ipswich Christmas lights.

Resident of Ipswich, Australia Laura Walker took her children to see the Ipswich Christmas lights. - Credit: Laura Walker

Other residents had similar plans, with Tyler Jane describing how her family usually “have a barbeque and a swim.”  

Karyn added that for her family, “holidays are usually taken at the beach, Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast at this time as well. 

“We get together with family in the air conditioning, and have a big feast of prawns, chicken, ham, salad, and roast veggies with all the sauces and trimmings. 

“We swim in the pool, watch movies, play board games. We drink, eat pavlova, trifle and rum balls for dessert and enjoy each other’s company. We have presents as well but normally just for the children now, not the adults.” 

We were also delighted to virtually meet Katelyn Sahagian, a journalist for the Ipswich Local News, a weekly and online publication in Ipswich, Massachusetts. 

We asked Katelyn about Ipswich’s Christmas traditions, and she was patient enough to explain the difference between a ‘white elephant’ and a ‘Yankee’ gift exchange, neither of which our reporter had heard of. 

“A White Elephant is basically just a yard sale,” she explained. “Everyone takes all their weird stuff and they sell it. I know in America, especially amongst people in their twenties like me, we’ll buy gifts that are purposefully white elephant gifts. We love weird stuff! 

“A Yankee swap is kind of like Secret Santa, except instead of buying for one individual person, you buy for the whole group.”

Participants are numbered, and pick presents in that order. 

“One person opens a present, then they have the choice whether to keep it or open another. Then the second person can open a gift which they can keep, open a second, or swap with the person who already opened a gift. And so, it goes on. 

“You either want to be the first or the last. There's no in between! A lot of betrayals will happen, a lot of back-stabbery."

Some residents, she says, will be celebrating ‘Jewish Christmas,’ a secular tradition which is not related to Chanukah.  

“We go to the movies and we get Chinese food afterwards,” Katelyn explains.  

She was also adamant that any media representations of how seriously Americans take Black Friday (a day marked by unparalleled discounts) could not do justice to the chaos of the day. 

“Have you seen a Tarantino movie? That is Black Friday, I’m not joking!” 

We while enjoyed learning about each other’s traditions and cultures, Laverne Murphy from Australia summed up the feelings of Ipswichians everywhere: “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”