A December to Remember
Melbourne lights up for the festive season. By Jenny Burns.
DECEMBER IS ALWAYS an action-packed and colourful time in Melbourne thanks to our love for Christmas celebrations. But this year the city is more radiant than ever.
The City of Melbourne has spent $5.4 million to make this year’s Christmas festivities our most spectacular ever. Add to this the dazzling decorations and plenty of activities offered by our many tourist attractions and shopping centres, and it’s easy to see why it’s a Christmas celebration to remember.
Federation Square and the city’s famous laneways are the hubs for many of the City of Melbourne-generated activities. A 16-metre Christmas tree is taking pride of place in Federation Square, together with Santa’s House and a Nativity scene. A giant Christmas bauble is another highlight, while youngsters can have their photo taken with Santa for free. Regular citygoers during December will also see numerous new decorations including Santa’s throne and sleighs throughout the city.
Another highlight of this year’s festivities is the new Santa’s Lil Helper app. This app takes visitors on an augmented reality experience, transforming numerous city sites, including Degraves Street, Howey Place and Federation Square, into enchanted wonderlands. The app also brings to life popular animated characters including Santa and the Nutcracker soldier.
Many of our city’s most popular attractions are also getting into the Christmas spirit. The State Library and Federation Square are being transformed into a bright and swirling magical Christmas light show telling the story of the North Pole’s preparations in the lead-up to the big day. There are also Christmas Projections at Docklands. These colourful creations are unlike traditional animations and are creating a new way to experience the area.
Together with the new “Christmas experiences” many old favourites have returned this year. They include the Gingerbread Village by EPICURE at the Melbourne Town Hall. EPICURE’S executive Pastry Chef, Deniz Karaca, and his team have spent months bringing the village to life. This year they have crafted a replica of the F1 Grand Prix to add to the village, which comprises 500 kilograms of gingerbread, 360 kilograms of royal icing, 150 kilograms of marzipan and around 800 miniature Christmas trees for the festive backdrop.
Taking the family to see Myer’s Christmas Windows is another Melbourne favourite—this year is the 62nd year the department store has been creating its animated Christmas theme.
While animation is “all the go” this century, a visit to Old Treasury Building shows how Melburnians of yesteryear celebrated Christmas. Its exhibition “Christmas at the Old Treasury” showcases homemade decorations of the 1920s. While there were quite sophisticated Christmas decorations for sale in Melbourne by the 1920s, most locals couldn’t afford them. “Christmas at the Old Treasury” shows the kinds of decorations they made instead. Newspapers of the time printed designs and patterns for cheerful decorations which could be made at home using readily available materials. The Old Treasury Building has used these patterns to recreate a homely Christmas in the caretakers’ basement flat. Old Treasury Building volunteers are making the decorations using 1920s techniques with the theme of crepe paper flowers.
Another long-held Melbourne tradition is Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight. Indeed, 2017 marks the event’s 80th anniversary. Held on Christmas Eve at the Myer Music Bowl, the event attracts thousands of candle waving participants who gather to hear some of this country’s best-known choirs and solo performers.
Once Christmas is over, the thoughts of locals and visitors alike turn to New Year’s Eve and there are plenty of ways to celebrate. The main highlight for thousands of revellers on New Year’s Eve is the fireworks display and again the City of Melbourne promises a show to remember. When the clock strikes midnight, fireworks will be fired from multiple rooftops across Melbourne’s CBD, which can be viewed from anywhere with a view of the city skyline. The fireworks promise to be a fitting end to a month of great cheer.