Christmas is the one time of the year when Melbourne is the only place I want to be. That’s mostly because it would be inconceivable to spend the festive season away from my loved ones, but it’s also got a fair bit to do with both the weather and the festivities.
Let’s face it. The weather pretty much anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere this time of year SUCKS. And if you take a gander through my other posts, you’ll soon realise I have a penchant for all things WARM. A huge chunk of you would think I’m crazy to advocate a summer Christmas, believing Noel is all about the snow flakes, those kitsch woollen sweaters, and sunsets at 4pm.
Oh I did the winter thing. Once. When I was ten. And when the sun dipped below the horizon only halfway through the afternoon I was horrified. Where the heck did Christmas day go? Would I be sent off to bed now?
Oh no, for many Aussies – and our Southern Hemisphere friends – Xmas is all about the heat. It’s about putting on your best summer frock, having a fruity breakfast on the deck and a BBQ dinner.
And it’s about strolling through the city on a beautiful summer’s day in shorts and thongs (flip-flops to you lot) before capping off the night at a beachside Carols by Candlelight.
Yuletide Activities in Melbourne
The spirit of Christmas is strong in my hometown, which makes a tremendous effort to bring some of the festive cheer south. In fact, Christmas is when this town truly comes into its own. Here are some of my fave yuletide sights for adults and kids alike.
The Myer Christmas Windows
Any kid who has grown up in Melbourne has visited the Myer Christmas windows. I remember the long trips into the city and standing in queues to glimpse the displays outside Melbourne’s central classy department store.
The windows consist of a themed series of set pieces with animated characters portraying a beloved children’s story. Since growing up, I’ve found the windows a bit more hit and miss, but back in my youth they were simply magical.
No kidding, this is always one of the highlights of Melbourne’s Christmas fun. The Town Hall hosts an annual gingerbread village, which is literally a model village made of gingerbread.
But what I love about it is its Melbourne spin. There’s St Kilda’s Luna Park, the Art Centre spire, and even a miniature (well, it’s actually quite huge) MCG complete with marzipan footy players. Do NOT visit this place on an empty stomach!
Queen Vic Night Market
Not quite a Christmas activity, since the market extends well into January, but this is the place to go for all your unique Christmas shopping needs.
The Queen Vic Night Market does a fab job of providing the most luscious selection of food stalls from virtually every nationality. You can gorge on Spanish paella, an Argentinian parilla, Thai noodles, Nepali mo-mos, and Greek lamb gyros and then wash it down with a drink from one of the many sangria stalls.
Walk off the food by browsing around the arts and craft stalls selling a huge range of future Christmas presents. But get in early: this place is POPULAR and can get crowded very quickly.
Melbourne’s main town square comes alive with Christmas cheer every December. The last time I visited, the whole courtyard had been overtaken with a field of Christmas trees.
Fed Square has a huge Christmas program. I’ve been to watch A Nightmare Before Christmas on the square’s big screen while reclining in deck chairs, and enjoyed daily carollers on its stage.
Melbourne’s City Square is transformed for the month of December. This is where you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly fun. There’s the city’s official Christmas tree, tin soldiers lining the entranceways, a nativity scene, Santa’s workshop; I could tell you more but it’s best you go explore it for yourself.
Melbourne Town Hall Christmas Projects
This is my personal favourite – though I’m sure I’m not alone. The City of Melbourne goes all-out every year to wrap up their town hall as a huge Christmas present.
But at night, it transcends a level. The hall is turned into a huge projection screen for the most magical and detailed Christmas sound and light show you’ll ever see.
That’s all I’m saying. But if you really want to spoil the fun, just watch this video:
Carols by Candlelight
Finally your antipodean Christmas experience wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Carols by Candlelight. Virtually every suburb and municipality hosts its own carols on footy ovals and nature reserves across Australia. But in Melbourne, you can’t go past Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight for a first-class treat.
These Carols are a long-held tradition performed at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve. I’ve been watching them on TV every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. But if the weather is fine (and let’s admit, it normally is), it’s worth grabbing some tickets, packing up a picnic and heading out there for a truly memorable Xmas eve.
If the tickets are a bit pricey, you can always head down there for the dress rehearsals on the 23rd – you’ll pay a portion of the costs and enjoy the same good quality music.
I have a whole host of other wonderful Melbourne Christmas memories I’d love to share with you. But the best things are the little touches you’ll happen across where you’re not expecting anything at all. Last week, as I waited for friends beneath Melbourne Central’s famous clock, it chimed Jingle Bells on the hour.
Your best Christmas experience in Melbourne is bound to come through self-discovery. Browse through the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade and you may come across one of the Australian Girl’s Choir groups bringing you some youthful Christmas cheer with their harmonious carolling (and you’ll certainly see some gorgeous Noel-themed shop displays).
I’d love to hear and see what you come across. Share your highlights in the Comments section below or hit me up with a picture on my Facebook page.
There’s plenty more to do in Melbourne besides spending Christmas there. Here are just a few other ideas: