Melbourne

Christmas at the Zoo!

On Saturday night we were lucky enough to be amongst the Melbourne Zoo members who attended their Christmas party.

It was a lot of fun!

Visiting Santa

For our turn with Santa, a Christmas fairy greeted us and took us into Santa’s cave for a personal chat with Santa then a chance to take a photo. Each child also got an early gift, but only if they could answer a special question from Santa (like “how many reindeer pull my sleigh” and “name two of my reindeer other than Rudolph“.)

Santa at Zoo Member night 2016

Winter Wonderland

Within the winter wonderland, there were multiple snow machines, a couple of craft activities, a silent disco (we spent ages in there!), a family photo scene (complete with snow covered mountains and a Rudolph statue) and a chance to pose with the Penguins of Madagascar.

A jungle gym, festooned in tinsel and bells was very popular, as was an inflatable maze. There was also a little kids area with Christmassy playthings and dressups.

Zoo animals

We were at the zoo, so of course we also walked around to see some animals before enjoying the Christmas activities. Unfortunately, many of the animals had decided to have a nap or otherwise stay out of view so we didn’t see many, but it was nice to walk around in the evening and experience a different sort of atmosphere at the zoo.

Giraffes & zebras at Melbourne Zoo

Entertainment& other activities

To keep us all entertained outside of Winter Wonderland and Santa’s Cave, there were various entertainment options provided.

  • on the main stage, the Party Animals played three sets of mixed songs
  • children were able to write to Santa – there were child-sized tables and chairs, simple letter templates, pencils and a large red letterbox for mailing the letters
  • train rides around the zoo
  • wandering characters stopped and talked to children and had photos takes, and waved to other children as they walked around
  • some performers on stage interacted with children, including teaching them dance moves and handing out prizes

Christmas entertainment images from teh melbourne Z00 2016 party

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?

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!

Final orders due today!

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here, but there’s only a week to go now!

Santa writing with a quillWe love helping Santa with his letters to Aussie children and think it is a real privilege to be part of so many children’s lives. And frankly we’d love to keep writing letters right up until Christmas Eve!

However, we have to rely on Australia Post during their busiest time of year so we have to factor delivery times into our plans. And we want to spend some time celebrating Christmas with our family. All of which means we must stop writing and sending letters very soon…

If you want letters to reach…

  • regional areas, orders close today
  • major cities except Melbourne, orders close Sunday
  • Melbourne, orders close Monday
  • anywhere by express post (for an additional $6), orders close Monday
  • you by email (ie we’ll send a pdf version instead), please order by Monday and send us an email

Having said that, we can’t guarantee delivery before Christmas on any orders placed after Saturday evening.

Read what others have said and remember that NOW is the best time to place an order if you’re thinking about it!

A Love Santa letter in a scrapbook

A Love Santa letter in a scrapbook

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 lights in Vermont & Wantirna

We went looking for Christmas lights a week before Christmas and ended up finding some lovely lights so here’s what we found in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs…

Christmas lights on a garden tree in MelbourneBellbird Court, Wantirna

A few houses there have decorations. The first house has a beautiful tree covered in lights and another had fewer lights but was beautiful in its simplicity with white reindeer forming a path to the front door.

2.5 Santas for this group, but well worth it if you’re in the area

Beddoe Rd & Allison Ct, Vermont

We found  a number of houses on Beddoe Road (starting at the corner of Cosgrove St) with lights – one or two had a lot of lights – which was nice but only about 2 Santas. We turned into Luck Drive and found one lit up house on our right.

Then we  turned into Allison Court. Most homes in this street have some lights set up while a few have a lot of lights. Altogether it is a good street to slowly drive through – but a walk along would be even better (our kids were too tired by this stage so we drove!)

Put all 3 streets together (and you could walk between them) and this is definitely worth 3 santas.

 Morack Rd, Vermont South

We only saw these lights while driving past on Burwood Highway but I think there are a few places and they were certainly lit up!

Narracan St, Vermont

This one is a mixed review. The house has quite a few lights on the house, in the garden and inside the windows – you can walk through the garden, too. It stands out and is worth a bit of a drive.

However, if you have been there in the past (as we had), this is not the display it once was. it used to be covered in lights, have a snow machine and create traffic chaos in the side streets! A few neighbouring houses were also decorated (but not this year). The owners have sold off many of their lights and decorations but hopefully will retain some lights for Christmas 2012.

Surrounding streets  (such as Hartland Rd) have a few dispersed homes with nice lights, too, so driving through these streets can be rewarding.

Cgristmas bells in lightsRead more about Victorian Christmas lights or share other lights in the Vermont/Wantirna area for others to enjoy…

So many Santas in one Burwood place!

We drove down Burwood Highway in Burwood (suburb of Melbourne, Victoria) last night expecting to see some great lights.

We could see the lights from a distance so easily found 378 Burwood Highway (not too far from Middleborough Rd) which has various lights up high on a garage roof and the roof of the house.

Santa reindeer in lights on roof

From the sign out the front, we realised we had missed seeing Santa there by about an hour. However, there were other elves wandering around inside and a couple of fairies even did a dance routine a bit later!

Inside their yard, there are not as many lights and decorations as we expected BUT there were  so many Santa on display! Along one wall were man-sized Santas (and a couple of other characters in Christmas garb). Along the second area was an incredible display of Santas – on trains, in parachutes, sitting, standing, with presents or without, with sleighs and reindeer (didn’t notice any with boomers unfortunately) and even some in snow globes for the white Christmas feel. You could spend ages there looking at each one in detail…

Santa's elf with some Aussie kidsThe elves are happy to pose for photos with people, and with the huge throne in a corner, I assume photos with Santa are also welcomed when he visits.

If you’re in Melbourne, I’d definitely say visit Burwood for a Santa display like no other! 4 Santas for this spot 🙂

Find out about other Victorian Christmas lights

Love Santa Letters 2009

Christmas is very close now, and many children are excited with their letter from Santa. It isn’t too late to order one for the special children in your life – in fact you have until 5pm …

Tuesday 22nd December if you live in Melbourne

Monday 21st December if you live in another capital city or elsewhere in Victoria

Sunday 20th December if you live in other areas (although very remote places may need longer for the Postie to deliver letters in time.)Love Santa letters at $10 each

Ordering is easy – just fill in our online form and we’ll take care of the rest for you on behalf of Santa.

White Christmas in Melbourne!

Last night, on our way home from a Christmas party, we saw an unusual sight 🙂

In Narracan St, Vermont, there are two houses with Christmas lights. One is lovely but completely dwarfed by the other which is absolutely covered with lights, Santas, reindeers, moving things and more. Every so often, it also snows on the people looking at the lights – yes, snows!!!!!!!!!!!! (Ok, for the cynics it is a pump blowing bubbles but it LOOKS like a snow fall and the kids adore it!)

Well worth a visit – 4 santas for this one!

Oh, and take some coins with you  – there is a wishing well with proceeds going to the Make a Wish foundation.

I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas…

With the amount of rain falling on Melbourne over the last two days, it doesn’t take much dreaming to envision a wet Christmas! Forecasts are for fine and 25, but I suspect it will be wet underfoot in many places still and the tree/ earthwork damage will still be visible anyway.

It reminds me of a Christmas when I was a kid – I only remember bits & pieces of it (and it may have been a family Christmas party rather than on Christmas Day although my memory is Christmas Day) I don’t remember Christmas celebrations themselves affected by rain and water, but going home was a different story!

Driving along Dandenong Road, the road was covered in water – at least ankle deep is my guess. There weren’t a lot of cars on the road, and all were travelling slowly and carefully. I think our engine must have been flooded because I remember Dad walking off through the pouring rain, trudging through the lake of the service road to reach a phone booth and call for help.

I don’t remember who rescued us and can’t imagine who he called for help – my Grandparents would have been closest but they never drove or owned a car! Maybe he just rang the RACV and I can only imagine how long a wait that would have been on such a night.

It was a bit scary – I think the car breaking down and Dad not automatically fixing it broke a few childish illusions 🙂

Here’s hoping Christmas Day this year will be a little less adventurous, as much as we appreciate the rain!

Travelling across Australia

When I was 16, I spent my first Christmas away from my family (we did presents and stuff a few days early instead). Along with about 12 others from my scout district, I headed off to Perth for a Venture (this is a huge camp for Venturers, like a scout Jamboree. People travelled from across Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and more to attend, and we had a ball.)

We left on Christmas Eve, packed into two vehicles (a people mover and a 4 wheel drive). Christmas night we were in a place called Ceduna for our Christmas feast. To be honest, I don’t remember what we ate but we laughed a lot as we ate and I do remember what we drank. Our district leader wanted to give us a treat so bought us a bottle of sparkling wine; he also wanted to conserve our collective funds so he purchased some cheap Spumante. And spew-mante is definitely what we called it…

Over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we covered some 2890 km (from Melbourne to Norseman) and viewed some of the diversity of Australia – metropolitan Melbourne and Adelaide, rural Victoria, the Great Australian Bite and part of the Nullarbor Plain.

It was a very different Christmas for me – rough, no presents, sitting in a car for most of it – but I wouldn’t change it for the world as I saw so much of Australia and had a great time with friends.

In fact, now that I have thought about that trip again, I think we will have a travelling Christmas soon – probably next year.

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