This informant is a student at USC. His dad’s side of the family is Australian, originally colonists from England. I asked him if his family did anything uniquely Australian. At first he said his dad didn’t bring many Aussie traditions or practices over to the US other than his accent, but then he was able to tell me about a Christmas-time tradition that his grandparents had held for generations.
Every single Christmas my Aussie grandma makes fruitcake. The shit is really gross and I don’t know why anyone eats it so after I tried it I had to ask why she makes it every year. First she laughed and said she really does like it, but then she told me what she knew about its historical significance. Apparently when England was colonizing Australia they used to send these fruit cakes over with people on the ships because they lasted longer than regular cakes. But those were plum cakes, which were boiled and the fruitcakes that my grandma makes are baked so it’s not really the same. I’m not really sure how they got associated with Christmas but that’s how they got to Australia. My grandma literally makes her fruitcake like a month before Christmas because the fruit has to marinate or something. I have only been Christmas there twice, but I still can’t believe my dad and all the other Aussies there actually eat it.
So it looks like these cakes originated as travel treats for the colonists and maybe stuck around after that to remind the colonists of home and the long hardship they endured to make it to Australia. In modern day fruitcake is probably just taken for granted and generally enjoyed by the masses during the holidays.