Christmas Lights/Decorations

The cost of Christmas decorations

Lego Santa, surfboard and Christmas tree in Melbourne

Lego Santa, surfboard and Christmas tree in Melbourne

My family had a great time last year checking out Melbourne’s Christmas sights. And we’re planning to do it again soon.

We equally love Christmas lights and displays on homes, both in our area and elsewhere we manage to visit.

Benefits of Christmas lights

So what is so good about seeing all those lights and decorations?

  1. it’s fun!
  2. they can be very beautiful, and we all need beauty in our lives and to remember to appreciate beauty rather than being so busy all the time
  3. it is a great way to spend some family time, and that is valuable. I still remember Christmas decorations on the street near my uncle’s house form when I was very young – it was a clear sign that excitement was on the way!
  4. Christmas can often bring out the best in people – they tend to be kinder, more generous and remember to show appreciation to people who serve all year – and if decorations and lights help bring that about they are well worth it as peace and kindness is what the world desperately needs at the moment
  5. walking around looking at lights gets people moving, out of the house and interacting with others
  6. it encourages people to visit public resources and appreciate their cities and town centres
Some of the Melbourne Christmas displays from 2015

Some of the Melbourne Christmas displays from 2015

Costs of Christmas light displays

Obviously, every Christmas decoration costs money. And wide scale displays cost a fair bit, especially if you factor in the electricity costs to run a light display.

I was surprised to read recently that it costs about $3.78 million to ‘fund and promote’ the Christmas displays in the Melbourne CBD. I hadn’t really thought about how much it cost before.

It’s a lot of money, and if you add in that most (all?) local councils also spend large amounts of money, it seems somewhat decadent to spend it on decorations rather than spending more on other causes (like homelessness and health care).

So it is worth spending that much money on one month?

Cutting the costs

I love the lights and displays, and I can see benefits to having them. But I am struggling with spending that much money on them.

So for what it’s worth, here are some suggestions from me on how to cut back those costs while still celebrating the Christmas magic.

  1. cut back on marketing and PR – most people know the city has displays without having to be told in a marketing campaign so this seems a large expense for little return. And even then, maybe use designers and marketers rather than big agencies to keep costs lower
  2. invest in solar panels to power more of the decorations – and other things throughout the year of course
  3. swap decorations with other local councils/cities so that they get more use and the costs are minimised
  4. sell tinsel and baubles etc after Christmas to recoup some costs and reduce decorations reaching landfill. Or donate lots of them to hospitals and other child-centric places so they can give Christmas cheer next year
  5. only put large decorations on every second pole so the impact is still there but at a lower cost
  6. consider the necessity of ‘VIP events’ or what is included at them  – the city paying for food for lots of VIPs doesn’t help the city or the locals very much
  7. rotate decorations so each set is used again after 3 or 4 years
  8. get public involvement. For example, a big wall could be covered with kids’ drawings of Christmas trees instead of paying for fancy displays

How else could cities and councils cut back on their Christmas savings without cutting back on Christmas cheer?

Beads for wildlife Christmas trees

Thanks to BeadWorks in Kenya, I have two lovely beaded Christmas trees to add to the Christmas tree and angel I bought last year.

Christmas trees and star earrings made from small beads

Beads for wildlife made Christmas trees and star earrings

I got these two trees, and a pair of green star earrings, from the Werribee Zoo – various Australian zoos run the Beads for Wildlife program. The program enables local women to create bead jewellery and decorations, thereby having an income (valuable for their families obviously) and reducing the need for large numbers of domesticated animals so there is less competition for African wildlife.

In short, my Christmas trees are contributing to their motto of More Beads = Less Livestock = More Wildlife.

Beaded Christmas trees hanging on a bottlebrush tree

Beaded Christmas trees hanging on a Bottlebrush tree

 

Lego Christmas stars

Checking the Love Santa Facebook page, I came across a short video of various Christmas stars made out of Lego. I showed my children the video, too.

So we couldn’t resist making some Lego stars, too 🙂

Advent calendar stars

First, we made some stars from the pieces in the Lego advent calendars (from the things received by day 21 anyway).

Christmas stars made from advent calendars

Stars made from (left to right, top the bottom) City calendar, Friends calendar, City and Friends characters, and City and Friends calendar.

A Christmas tree star

This Lego star was created by Cassie’s nine year old…

A Lego Christmas star on top of a Christmas tree

and this one by Martin’s 10 year old daughter…

and this one was created by Jen’s almost-11-year-old son, Nick…

martin_10_yo_girl

* Cassie, Jen and Martin shared these with us via Facebook

 

 

Christmas lights in Melbourne, 2015

I love walking around on a summer evening looking at Christmas lights!

This year, we walked around our local area with a group of friends which was a lot of fun. The biggest hassle is juggling going out when it’s dark enough to appreciate the lights with getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour (given how tired they were for the end of school year anyway).

Anyway, I didn’t get my photos edited in time to share them before Christmas. So here are some of them now…

collage of Christmas lights

 

front yards and fences with CHristmas lights

 

 

Melbourne’s Myer windows

Growing up in Melbourne means visiting the Myer windows for Christmas.

Collage of Myer windows, Christmas 2015

A long standing tradition

As I mentioned last week, this is the 60th year that Myer has been providing this festive delight to Melbournians.

Like many Melbournians, I remember heading into the city (and going by train just added to the excitement!) to view the windows as a child and again with my friends as a teenager. Now, I get to take my children in and share the experience with them.

All but a few years had moving parts to the displays, and all years have a theme linking the six windows.

60 years

To celebrate the fact that the Myer windows are 60 years old, one of this year’s windows was very special. It showed the back of a typical scene so we can see the mechanism allowing for movement.

On either side of that scene was a bookshelf containing items/characters from old window themes. That is one window I wish I had been able to spend more time at, but it went quickly and was of less interest to my kids.

2015 – the little dog story

Little dog sitting in front of a gate in Myer windowSo this year, the theme behind the Myer Christmas windows is the book Little dog and the Christmas wish by Corinne Fenton.

Each window has a little dog at the front of the window looking into the scene of the story. The story can be heard and read as you move along the series.

As the little dog move around the suburbs and city of Melbourne, the various scenes show Melbourne from the 50s.

Changes over time

When we visited the windows last week I noticed a few changes from when I was younger.

  • there are structured queues so everyone gets a turn and starts at one end of the windows – and the doorways into Myer are kept free for shoppers! I remember crowds of people in front of each window, and you just saw them as you could.
  • the displays are behind a curtain. The curtain goes up, the story and movement starts, then the curtain goes down again to signal it’s time to move onto the next scene. There’s nothing to really stop you watching a particular scene more than once, but it is a good way to keep things moving smoothly
2015 Myer windows with 60th sign and little dog

The Little dog looking at the closed screen

Christmas in Melbourne

Earlier this week, we had a beautiful day in the city of Melbourne just walking around and viewing the Christmas decorations and displays.

I wish I could visit all the Aussie cities for Christmas, but I’ll have to make do with Melbourne! At least I can share some of the beautiful sites here, though.

Collage of photos of Lego Christmas display - tree, sleigh, star, Santa

First, we wen to Fed Square and saw the largest Lego Christmas tree in the southern hemisphere – it’s nearly 10 m tall! It is a very Aussie tree with koalas and kookaburras in the tree and obvious gifts underneath (like a cricket bat, footy and surfboard).

Then, we looked at the City Square which has a whole Christmas feel. As well as a tree and signposts, we saw plant reindeer, Santa’s seat and red flowers everywhere. The kids also enjoyed interactive aspects such as having their faces in an elf picture and hearing Santa laugh.

Collage of Myer windows, Christmas 2015

Next were the Myer windows, of course, with the story of the Little Dog and the Christmas wish. This is the 6oth year of the Myer windows which is quite something!

Collage of gingerbread village 2015

And we finished with epicure’s Gingerbread village. This was amazing and a fun way to see Melbourne. The village includes landmarks like Flemington racecourse (with Santa and his sleigh on the roof of the grandstand!), the MCG, St Kilda beach, Melbourne zoo (although I’ve never seen the animals stand in snow before!), the arts centre and the Grand Prix. It’s fun spotting the places and the little details throughout, and amazing to realise it is all made out of gingerbread and icing!

Merry Christmas Melbourne!

Christmas celebrations across Aussie cities

The excitement is building and decorations are springing up in public places – Christmas is coming! In fact, it is exactly 4 weeks away today…

Here are a few of the free celebrations from around the country – feel free to tell us about others in the comments below 🙂 And why not share your experiences at some of these events?

Map of AUstralia coveed in Christmas icons

Christmas in Melbourne

The big events seem to be centred around Federation Square this year, with the southern hemisphere’s largest Lego Christmas tree being unveiled today! The tree will be nearly 10m tall and made from 500,000 Lego bricks, and will have a daily light show accompanied by Christmas songs.

Fed Square also has a tree lighting ceremony tonight and launches their Christmas celebration today – there will be entertainment and activities of all sorts for the next month.

Also starting tonight, the Melbourne Town Hall turns into a magical moving Christmas show through projected lights. Various other buildings around the CBD and Docklands will also light up for Christmas.

Santa can be found in the City Square from tomorrow until Christmas Day, alongside a live Christmas tree and an ‘interactive Christmas activation’ (you’ll have to visit to find out what that means!)

As Melbourne is known for great food, we can’t forget the Gingerbread Village by Epicure! Based at the Town Hall from 1 December, the village is open between 10 am and 8:30pm and all proceeds (entry is by donation) will go to Make-A-Wish Australia. The pastry chefs have been busy creating Melbourne landmarks and I can’t wait to see them all! I wonder if we get to taste Melbourne while we’re there…

Of course, Carols by Candlelight will be on Christmas Eve – at the Myer Music Bowl for some, on TV for the rest of the country 🙂 And the Myer windows have already opened…

Sydney celebrations

Listen to carols every Thursday evening with Choirs in the City at the Pitt St Mall from 26 November. And in the week of Christmas, walk the Pitt St Mall Boulevard of light…

See the tree in Martin Place – it apparently has 60,000 lights and 22 interactive stars on it! The official lighting was last night, with Santa arriving by sleigh to help, and lights will be on every night now until Christmas.

From 12 December, look for the illuminations and projections at the Town Hall.

Between 28 November and 6 December, join in the fun at a series of family concerts (culminating with fireworks!) at Rushcutters Bay, Alexandria, Rosebery and Surry Hills  – see the Sydney Christmas page for details.

Experience Christmas in Perth

Perth’s Christmas tree has been on display since 13 November and will stay until 6 January, alongside the Council House Nativity scene in Forrest Place.

For something completely different, why not check out Scuba Santa at the WA Aquarium on Christmas Eve in the shipwreck coast? {To be fair, this is only free if you pay to get into the aquarium, but it still sounds like fun!}

From next Thursday (3 December), the GPO building will be alight with animated Christmas scenes featuring Queenie the Quokka. Going on photos from previous years, this is bound to be beautiful.

This weekend, and again on the 12-13 December weekend, the Perth City Christmas Carnival will make Forrest Place come alive with fun, laughter and music. It includes free rides and a visit from Santa, so if you’re in Perth, why not join the fun?

And the RAC Christmas pageant will move through the Perth streets from 7:30pm on Saturday 5 December.

But one of the most tempting celebrations for me is the two days when Forrest place becomes Christmas Place! It includes Santa workshops, photos with reindeer statues, falling snow – and some of Santa’s Elves are rumoured to be attending, too (but not his letter writing elves I’m afraid!)

Having fun in Hobart

Hobart’s Christmas pageant was last weekend for a celebration of Hobart and the different cultures that make up the city.

The City of Hobart Christmas Decorations program ensures plenty of beautiful decorations to see in Hobart this Christmas…

  • the traditional Christmas tree in Wellington Court
  • the ’12 Days of Christmas’ at the Liverpool St entrance to the Elizabeth St mall (there’s a tongue twister in the making!)
  • toy soldier models in the Elizabeth St mall – apparently very popular for photos!
  • a Christmas tree and magical lights will be on display at Salamanca Square

And for a different touch, Hobart’s Youth Arts and Recreation Centre is showcasing young artists with a gallery of ‘what Christmas means to me’ artworks displayed on Mathers Lane.

Darwin at Christmas

If you’re not participating in the Variety Santa Fun Run on Sunday at the Darwin waterfront, why not go along and watch and cheer them on? Lots of Santas at the beach is a very Aussie Christmas event!

Every night in December, the main entrance of the Darwin Waterfront hosts a Christmas lights and snow display between 7pm and 10pm.

The City of Darwin Libraries offers a series of Christmas carols performances at branches from 12 December to 19 December.

Or just enjoy one of the many opportunities to sing along to some carols including tomorrow at Palmerston, Carols by Candlelight (Sunday 6 December) at George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, at Leanyer (Sunday 13 December) or at the Goyder Christmas Tree lighting, also on 13 December.

Christmas in Adelaide

Check out the Christmas lights on the Town Hall and Victoria Square between sunset and midnight every night of the week. They were lit up on 14 November and will stay until 1 January.

One highlight of the TeamKids Christmas Festival will be the giant Christmas tree lighting in Victoria Square from 7:30pm on Friday 4 December. The tree will then light up every evening at sunset until 6 January. TeamKids Christmas Festival will also run 4-6 December in Victoria Square. A family friendly event, not surprisingly, with Santa, entertainment, videos from the Adelaide Crows, wreath making, gingerbread biscuit decorating, and open air cinema and more. I love the community aspect of this festival with a Christmas mural being painted and the Wishing Tree’s presence.

There will also be a giant light display along Grote Street, right through until Christmas, as businesses and the Hampshire Cider House light up windows.

Carolers will be singing on Hutt St over the weekend of 4-6 December.

A special evening is also planned for the Lighting of The Loving Tree in front of the Mary Potter Hospice in Strangeways Terrace on 2 December, including carols and a concert by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The Loving Tree celebrates loved ones in and affected by the hospice. Merry Christmas to them all.

Brisbane celebrates

Brisbane’s Christmas tree in King George Square was turned on last night so it’s all set for you to enjoy until Christmas Eve. The City Hall Light Spectacular will be on between 11 December and 24 December with a new and magical light show.

The Myer Christmas parade will run daily at 6:30 pm from 11 December to 20 December. It starts at Edward St and works its way along the Queen St mall, followed by a pantomime in King George Square. The pantomime features Mrs Claus trying to save Santa from being sent to sleep on Christmas Eve!

 

*Image created with images from 123RF

Christmas shop displays

Should shops always have traditional Christmas displays, or is a modern interpretation ok?

Collage of shopping centres decorated for Christmas

Some examples of Christmas decorations in shopping centres*

Updated mall displays are controversial?

I came across an article entitled “You’ll never believe the newest Christmas controversy“.

In short, a chain of American shopping centres (malls) has decided to modernise their Christmas decorations around where Santa sits. Apparently, they’re swapping traditional details like trees and wreaths for a winter wonderland feel.

Ok, winter is not a theme that says Christmas to us Down Under, but using interactive screens and a light show could be interesting. And from a business perspective, it could make their malls stand out as fresh and different.

But shoppers disliked it so much that the malls reverted to Christmas trees and poinsettias.

How should shops display Santa?

There is a lot to be said for the traditional decorations – it continues a tradition, obviously, and helps people feel the Christmas magic they experienced as kids, and lets parents share that same magical experience with their kids.

Christmas tree beside Santa's seat in a shopping centreIn particular, displays around Santa and that end up in Santa photos probably are better keeping a somewhat traditional feel – who wants to look back on family photos and have one or two photos stand out as dated rather than Christmassy?

Of course, when it comes to the crunch, as long as a smiling Santa is there and children feel safe and welcome, the background is just that – background.

Shopping centre decorations

I like seeing shopping centres (including strip shops and council buildings) having some different themes for their decorations – for instance, I’ve seen some beautiful silver and purple themes which are stunning.

So I think perhaps the Santa seating area needs to have many traditional elements, but other decorations can be modern, classy, traditional or just interesting!

Would you agree with me?

How would you react if your local shops used a modern approach to decorations around Santa this year?

 

* Images courtesy of LoveSanta and torange.

Gumnut wreaths – craft for kids

Red and gold glitter on gumnuts and gum leave wreath

Red and gold glitter on gumnuts and gum leaves – a beautiful Christmas display!

 

I just had to share this craft idea! Being so Australian I thought it would fit beautifully on this site, too!

 

I helped at my children’s kinder the other day and all the children were busily making some Christmas wreaths, and loving it. I was impressed with the great results but also that they were so very Aussie, well within the children’s abilities and also so much fun to make.

Although be warned if you try this at home because it took me ages to vacuum up all the glitter afterwards!

 

 

Making gumnut wreaths

I didn’t see this bit, but the kids were given cardboard rings which they stuck together, with a loop of ribbon sticking out one end. I think they are double to be stronger, and it makes attaching the ribbon neater.

They painted this double ring green and left it to dry.

I then was there to watch them stick on gum nuts of various sizes, along with gum leaves and even sticks if they wished.

They also had some red felt leaves (which does add colour on the green background) but I think I prefer just the gumnuts, leaves and glitter – or is that just me?

Once they were happy with their arrangement, they sprinkled glitter over the top – first letting it stick to the excess glue already on the wreaths, then adding dobs of glue where they felt more glitter was needed.

gumnut wreaths drying - kids Christmas craft

Some of the gumnut wreaths made by kinder children – aren’t they beautiful?

As they dried, I got some photos – I think they are beautiful Christmas wreathes, don’t you?

Once they come home from kinder, there will be one hanging with pride on our front door!

Ribbons on a Christmas tree

Christmas tree covered in sports ribbons

Liz also supplied us with a photo of the ribbon-decked tree – I think it looks great!

We have small Christmas trees in the kids’ rooms, which they love:)

This year, a bit of ahead of me getting out the usual decorations, my daughter decided to decorate the trees.

She grabbed out some school sports ribbons and other sashes to use instead of tinsel. It actually looked quite effective and is a nice acknowledgement of her sporting achievements over the year (she was just after the colour and instant gratification, but I liked the display of her achievements!)

 

Merry Christmas Maldon!

What a lovely surprise we had on Saturday!

We drove to a lovely country town called Maldon, up in the Macedon Ranges. A reminder of the gold rush of the 1850s, Maldon is a beautiful old town with many gift shops, cafes and antique shops.

They also have a Christmas shop which of course impresses me!

Christmas in July displays in Maldon - Mrs Claus, carollers, wombats, kangaroo pulling a kaola in a sleigh

Some of the displays in Maldon this July – a mix of traditional and Australian 🙂

Christmas in July

Unbeknownst to us, Maldon is the middle of a two week mid-winter and Christmas in July celebration!

All of the shops were invited to decorated their windows to suit the theme and Christmas decorations and tress are all over the place. My children loved eating lunch below a Christmas tree and seeing an Aussie Santa sleigh on the counter.

As you’d expect, not all shops joined in but many do have a themed window which made walking along the street fun.

Some of the highlights were…

  • a Narnia scene, complete with snow-covered ground and a huge White Witch
  • a rat camp, complete with a copy of “the Great Rastby”! This was the hardware shop’s window and I loved how the Christmas tree decorations and Christmas lights were actually nuts and washers!
  • one window had a sign “All I want…” above a shelf with lolly teeth missing the middle teeth. This one actually won first prize despite being the simplest
  • one shop had a display of Australian animals in Santa hats and the like

There are also some activities throughout the town so if you’re close enough to visit Maldon, have a Christmas outing during the school holidays!

Thompson St Northcote for Christmas lights

Have you ever seen the Christmas lights in Thompson St?

Christmas tree and gift in lights against night sky

(Love Santa image, not from Thompson St)

While not as extensive as Ivanhoe’s Boulevard (3km of lights is pretty hard to beat!), there apparently are a lot of lights there – over 50,000 LEDS between just three houses according to one report! And residents think their display is better so it could be worth a look if you’re in Melbourne during December.

Personally I love the story of the Francis family at number 49 – they decorate the house for the Hindu Diwali festival of lights and add to it for Christmas. Mixing religions and celebrations, to me, is a great way of building peace and showing Melbourne is a multi-cultural place.

What do you think – could a small collection of lights be better than Ivanhoe’s huge display? Have you seen both and have a preference?

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