Peace, goodwill, and family: Refugees celebrate their first Australian Christmas

Toowoomba's newest residents are looking forward to a safe and peaceful Christmas in their newly adopted home.

Zainabu and her son Abdul-Aziz are from Congo, but have spent the last six years in a refugee camp in Uganda.

"This will be the first Christmas I can enjoy with my son," she said.

"In Africa I was not safe. I couldn't care about Christmas. If you are not safe, how can you enjoy it? Christmas was always too sad.

"But now I am here. I am happy, and able to enjoy Christmas for the first time in a very long time."

Zainabu plans to surprise her son with special gifts, "and then we will go to a restaurant. And then we will go to the park and he will be able to enjoy it with all the other children".

Abdul-Aziz said he had a small wish-list for himself, and a longer one for his mother.

"I would like a drum and a remote control car, but I am also thinking about my mother, stuff for her hair, makeup, necklaces and rings," he said.

He is quickly getting the hang of what to do in an Australian Christmas.

"I'd like to go to the beach and have a swim," he said.

Rana and Dawood spent the last two years in Jordan, after leaving Iraq, with their two daughters Maryam and Sarah.

"We need to say a big thank you to Australia for giving us safety and for being such a beautiful place," Rana said.

"Christmas will be very different this year, it will be our first summer Christmas, but more importantly, we can relax.

"The Christmas lights here are very beautiful. There is nothing like that in my country because, well, you know Iraq."

After arriving in October, the family has quickly readied their Christmas celebrations.

"We bought a Christmas tree from St Vincents yesterday," Rana said.

"And on Christmas Day we will go to church first, spend time with family, and will eat kubba, a dish made with lamb and rice.

"The parks are lovely, and everything here is green," said Rana.

Schadrach and his children Riziki, Aaron, Rachel, and Samuel lived in a refugee camp in Malawi for 16 years before arriving in Toowoomba this year.

"We would celebrate with different families and many of our Christian brothers and sisters in the camp," Shadrach said.

"I will enjoy this first Christmas in Australia. It is a good day. It is the day God shared his gift of love with us."

The family plans to visit one of Toowoomba's many parks on Christmas Day.

"The flowers and the trees are a gift," he said.

And they plan to celebrate in style.

"We love to share the little we have," Riziki said.

"We will share with relatives and friends."

"Oh, yes," added Schadrach. "It will be a big party!"

Grace Angar arrived in Toowoomba two months ago from South Sudan via a refugee camp in Kenya.

"In Africa, especially in the camps, Christmas is not usually a big deal," she said.

"The best thing that could happen to anyone is getting a new dress or shoes and we may cook something special like chicken."

This year Grace was looking forward to "a peaceful time for once".

"After being in the camps, I'm looking forward to spending quiet time with my family, and giving Christmas all we have got, and not having to worry," she said.

"Christmas is a time to celebrate. It is the birth of Jesus!"

Grace has witnessed the busy shopping centres, and started to immerse herself in the traditions of her adopted homeland.

"The Christmas lights at night are fascinating," she said.

The young African-Australian is happy to offer advice to those feeling a little worn out at this time of year.

"There are so many things to buy. Just be wise with your spending. School is coming up in January."