Christmas Picnic (& other outdoor decoration ideas)

Christmas in Australia is very much an outdoor affair. I’m sharing tips on setting up a portable Christmas space for the backyard or park.  I’ve listed below how I put it together and other general tips I’ve gleaned from eating outdoors on many camping trips.

Make a portable Christmas space to take out in the backyard or beyond - beafunmum.com

Eating outdoors at Christmastime -- beafunmum.com

When it comes to any sort of decorating, I like to utilise everyday items and add accents to make it festive. That’s why the star item this week is the humble picnic mat.

I got this huge 3 metre by 3 metre picnic mat (pictured below) from BIG W. It’s perfect for a dozen sprawled children. Great family Christmas present idea too.

outdoor christmas ideas - picnic mat and a small tree - beafunmum.com


A regular tablecloth works well, but I like the idea of using a picnic mat or rug as a tablecloth outdoors.  A traditional tartan picnic mat looks fabulously Christmassy in this setting.  For the table covering here, I used a red and white picnic mat I already owned.

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - use a picnic mat as a tablecloth - beafunmum.com

Colour Theme

As a general rule, I pick two main colours then a third (and sometimes fourth) as highlights. So the main theme here is the red and white, and then bottle green as a highlight. 

Wood Rounds

I found someone to cut untreated logs to size for a rustic look.  The beauty of this is it’s heavy so the table covering won’t budge.

Outdoor Christmas Ideas -- wood rounds for a table centrepiece - beafunmum.com

Tip: Other items that can be used to layer the table if wood rounds are hard to secure: placemats, table runner, long piece of wood that runs the length of the table.

Holly Garland

I added a strand of holly garland and finished off with a scatter of collected pine cones.

Outdoor Christmas - holly and pine cones - beafunmum.com


For the centrepiece I went for something simple, easy and outdoor friendly.

Plastic Wine Centrepiece

3 Plastic Wine Glasses

Small baubles (colour of choice)

3 battery-operated candles (use blu-tack to attach)

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - Plastic Wine Glass Centrepiece - beafunmum.com
Outdoor Christmas Ideas - Plastic Wine Glass Centrepiece - beafunmum.com

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - Plastic Wine Glass Centrepiece - beafunmum.com

Side Feature

To add to the glass look-a-like theme, I added an upside down tumbler with two battery-operated candles to give more light.  Although never as good as the real thing, these candles can give off a surprisingly decent amount of light.

Tumbler Candle

Plastic tumbler

Battery operated tea light


  • Use the tumbler upright with one tea light inside
  • Place a Christmas decoration or mini-tree underneath the plastic up instead of the light for a different look

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - Plastic Centrepiece - beafunmum.com

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - Plastic Centrepiece - beafunmum.com


No outdoor Christmas setting is truly complete without the sparkle of lights.  If you have access to electricity, a heap of outdoor lights hung around a patio or in a nearby tree creates a lovely atmosphere.

Battery-operated LED lights are portable.  Just pop a few batteries in and hang from wherever you like.  This is what I used to create a backdrop for the outdoor setting.

Outdoor Christmas Idea - Use lights in a tree - beafunmum.com

Christmas Tree

This small Christmas Tree costs $5 and can be set up anywhere.  Gifts can be placed under the tree or inside a dedicated tub or box (to keep them from accidently being kicked around the place).

Tip: this size tree works as a table centrepiece too.

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - a small tree and a picnic mat - beafunmum.com

Outdoor Dining

We camp as a family so have learned many tips and tricks for eating outside, some of which I’m sharing below.

Outdoor Christmas Ideas - plastic white tableware - beafunmum.com

1. Outdoor friendly tableware

Plastic plates and cups go a long way in aiding a stress-free experience, especially if there are a lot of people and family around.  This really helps with pack up too: throw everything in a big tub and cart it to where you need it when finished.

2. Create spaces

Think in spaces, even when it comes to food and drink.  For example:

– a large mat on the ground for lounging

– fold-up chairs for sitting

– drinks in an esky or tubs filled with ice

– a table for food and another for sitting if you can (fold-up tables are brilliant for this type of thing)

– Have a bin available: line a large rubber tub with a plastic bag

3. Food & drink tips

– While a little more expensive, drinks in serving size — cans, poppers and bottles — make things easy when outside. Place in an esky or container filled with ice and guests can help themselves without the need for cups.  This saves having bottles clogging up the table too.

– A large container with water sitting on the edge of a table is ideal

– Think of food in categories. This makes it easy when allocating who brings what at Christmastime.

a) meat or protein

b) side items: salad or vegetables

c) carbohydrates: bread rolls, potato, rice

d) dessert

e) condiments: butter, tomato sauce, salt & pepper

Blow up buffet

I saw this blow up picnic buffet and though it a brilliant idea ($10). Simply blow up, fill with ice and place food containers inside.

inflatable blow up buffet - perfect for outdoor Christmas - beafunmum.com

Ice or Scrap Bucket for table

Make your own table bucket (ideal for seafood scraps) to go with a colour chosen theme.  Use a hot glue gun to attach a ribbon around the top of a small metal bucket.

Scrap bucket for Christmas Table - dress up a bucket with a themed ribbon - beafunmum.com

Drink tubs

Rubber tubs are fantastic for all kids of outdoor use, including drinks.

Outdoor Christmas - use rubber tubs filled with ice for drinks - beafunmum.com

Set up

I set up this space in a matter of minutes. Hooray for Christmas picnics is all I have to say at the end.

Other ideas for outdoor Christmas decorating

– Hang a wreath on the front door. Love this door decoration from Seven Cherubs

– Citronella candle

– Jars with tea lights to line the driveway

– Outdoor lights

– Pots filled with holly and pine cones

– Decorate an outdoor tree with baubles

– Hang pine cones from ribbon along the windows

Make a nature garland


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  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I love the baubles in the wine glasses idea!! I am definetly doing this for Chrissy and themed parties!

  • Reply
    Sharron peacock
    December 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Christmas outdoors is a fantastic idea! I’d use
    Pine cones decorated on the table 🙂

  • Reply
    Christine Millmore
    December 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

    My decoration tip is to a place card made out of a fly swat. You’ll need them!

  • Reply
    Melanie Naveau
    December 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Keep is simple! We are preparing all our picnic food the day before to make it quicker to get out the door and so we can sit, relax and enjoy the beach, and each others company!. Don’t forget your phone loaded up with Christmas music!!!

  • Reply
    Melissa Antolovic
    December 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Some great ideas – love the timber rounds
    If your picnics at the beach make sure you pack the baby powder do get all that icky sand off you and the kids before hoping back in the car

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Bug spray, bug attracting candles and mesh food protectors- nobody likes bugs in the hair, eyes, or food! If you can get rid of the mosquitoes you’ve got a no fail outside party !!

  • Reply
    Emma Phillips
    December 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Make it a fun family activity: decorate outdoor plants with tinsell and home made decorations and cover pots in wrapping paper….everyone can participate and enjoy the time together 🙂

  • Reply
    Kelly Sammut
    December 4, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Simple paper lanterns, in a single colour or a combination to suit your theme, strung in the trees at different heights. Bright, cheerful and creates a lovely festive atmosphere!

  • Reply
    Michelle Bamford
    December 4, 2013 at 11:05 am

    Keep it simple! This year I have hung a few decorations on a gum tree branch for our outdoor Xmas BBQ. Only took a few minutes and looks very Aussie 🙂

  • Reply
    Amanda Eastment
    December 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Beautiful Christmas bunting hanging from the trees or fence makes for a lovely Christmassy feel. For a white Christmas look, use doilies as snowflake bunting.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Fly swats and mesh protectors, lol. Our xmas always needs plenty of bon bons to decorate and have fun with. Xmas wouldn’t be the same without lame bon bon jokes.

  • Reply
    eliz a buf
    December 4, 2013 at 11:17 am

    my favorite way to decorate outside is candles, candles, candles… i like them in all sorts of saved-up (from the kitchen) little glass jars with a bit of sand inside. even in the afternoon, they are cheery and visible and festive. and tiny tealights are very inexpensive, so having lots feels really splurge-y but still leaves plenty of budget for the real star — the food!

    xoxo, buf

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 11:23 am

    We are making a table centerpiece out of fruit in the shape of a Christmas tree. Can’t wait to create it with my daughter!! Also outside fairy lights look amazing as does other Christmas decorations in the garden.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Love your simple creativity – makes me think even I could do it!
    I think having a lots of cushions to lounge around on is crucial for outside.

  • Reply
    Kylie D
    December 4, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Love those ideas, I think we need a giant picnic mat for our backyard.

    My best tip is Aeroguard or similar, it’s no fun being eaten alive by insects while trying to have fun outside.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

    What fabulous ideas. I love that it is so simple and understated yet looks so stylish!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 11:45 am

    My best tip is to be prepared for the weather! A white tablecloth to reflect the heat and make sure you have something to weigh down the corners like sand filled baubles strung on the corner of the cloth so the wind doesn’t whisk it away! Or better still use a large roll of christmas wrap or butchers paper so it can have food and drink spilt on it and be thrown away afterwards with no hassle with washing.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    In the summer months the sun can be harsh. My tip is to use a portable, easy to assemble gazebo to offer shade for your guest when the sun is beating down. We use ours over the sand pit for the kids, to extend a party into the back yard or as a temporary shaded play area for the kids.

  • Reply
    Diane Drysdale
    December 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Fabulous ideas! We cannot wait for Xmas 😀

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    I love a white table cloth and lots of little jars and assorted vases with beautiful in season flowers! I can wait to do my Christmas table this year!

  • Reply
    Kate R
    December 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    One thing I love about Christmas in the summertime is all the beautiful colourful fruit we have here. The food of the picnic itself – including such lovely fruit – can be part of the decorations. I love the idea of the inflatable buffet – this would keep the fruit and everything else cool long enough to have it out for a little while looking lovely before eating!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    My first tip is Keep it simple, I’m learning a lot from u Big W squad gals! Simple colours n u don’t need the best crockery or items to have the best Xmas table setting! Your red n White setting is divine! I’m loving that plastic inflatable buffet u put ice in and throw the salads into…gorgeous! Next tip is…Do the best with what u have n ALWAYS shop at BIG W of course! Fantabulous!

  • Reply
    E Beverley
    December 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Don’t forget to be sunsafe. Slip, slop, slap! Even Santa wears a hat!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Big W is selling solar charged LED lights these days. Simply put the solar unit out to charge the day before and you have a battery free decorating option. The solar charged lights have more lights on the string and last longer than the battery option. Bonus is that you can use them before and after Christmas as outdoor decorations too!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    In Australia I think a cute/ funny idea would be an individual mozzie sunscreen with the person’s name on a tag around the rim to keep the burn and itches away while you enjoy your special time!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Christmas is about chilling out and having FUN! Why not fill a plastic tub full of water balloons (already filled with water) in the kids area and a spray bottle with water (put onto fine mist) with each placemat for the adults to keep cool too. Of course every Xmas should have a hammock strung between two trees..

  • Reply
    Katrina Corbett
    December 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    We all love the Christmas bon bon’s in our family so we decorate with those.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I like to let my kids take charge of decorating outside, the always have bright ideas and arent afraid to be different.

  • Reply
    Charlotte L.
    December 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Simple is always best! Mozzie Spray and sunscreen are a must. If you are having seafood then having bowls of water with cut lemons to wash your hands in is a good idea to get rid of fishy smells or pack hand wipes.

  • Reply
    Michelle Gray
    December 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Recycle, use items such as empty drink bottles to make new items like decorated tea candle holders. Cheap, easy, the kids can help and they look fantastic, and if they get damaged, who cares!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Lots and lots of Gorgeous Fairy Lights, thank you for sharing all your ideas. xx

  • Reply
    Toni Balkin
    December 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    my eco-friendly silly season tip is to collect some branches discarded from trees, place the branches in pots (old coffee tins, formula tins work awesome) and fill with soil/sand/gravel to hold branch in place. give them a spray with red spray paint and load it up with green baubles (or your favourite xmas colours). very cost effective and looks amazing. HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALl.

  • Reply
    Cath D
    December 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Decorate natural environment with Christmas lights. Lay out picnic blanket and scatters cushions. Enjoy Christmas music and festive cheer!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    If the weather is nice I just move the indoor decorations outdoors, also if I offer hubby a couple of beers, he will agree to putting up the lights.

  • Reply
    Susan daly
    December 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Have a few throw pillows or sleeping bags on the mat or rug to make it a bit comfortable for the kiddies – or grownups lounging around!

  • Reply
    December 4, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    My kids love to help decorate by putting tinsel and Chrissy baubles on our outside trees.

  • Reply
    Alisia Cameron
    December 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Some flowingy streamers hung above the table will blow around gently above the food and to dissuade flies and other flying insects that threaten to invade your Yule-time festivities!

  • Reply
    Summer Hinaki-McDade
    December 4, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I love fresh flowers and greenery and scented candles on the table with a nice throw rug and comfy pillows on the ground.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Citronella flares – they keep the bugs away without applying smelling sprays to your skin.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Have everything labelled and stored in boxes so when putting up your Christmas lights your display will shine brightly.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Definately a fly cover!

  • Reply
    dianne inwood
    December 5, 2013 at 8:38 am

    We hang solar lights, like baubles and wind chimes with color changing lights all around the pergola. We also have fairy lights. At night time its magical, just like a fairy garden.

  • Reply
    Sarah D
    December 5, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Have fun don’t make it a “job”.

  • Reply
    Michelle Buckton
    December 5, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    There is no need to buy new decorations. As with your upturned glass idea, many items you already have at home came be re-used as decorations with a little imagination. Try filling Xmas Tree decoration balls with a little sand, attach a ribbon to hang with and pin to the corners of your tablecloth to stop it from blowing away for those outdoor Xmas parties. Decorative and functional.

  • Reply
    Liz Pollard
    December 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    My best tip for decorating outside is to not go outside. It’s too damn hot! Keep everyone inside.

  • Reply
    Krystal D
    December 5, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Never underestimate the weather. Try to anchor any decorations so they’re not blown away and if they’re waterproof even better.

  • Reply
    Chloe Barber
    December 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    make use of nature! hang fairy lights/lanters off trees

  • Reply
    mellie jane
    December 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Tinsel in the garden use your plants as outdoor christmas trees and don’t use breakables as this always ends in disasters.

  • Reply
    Katie @ The Imperfect Housewife
    December 6, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    Hanging Christmas decorated pinecones in trees along with some tinsel 🙂

  • Reply
    December 6, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Get kids to decorate outdoors. It may not look perfect but it will have character and meaning and more than likely lots of sparkle and color 🙂

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