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Melbourne lights up for Christmas

Get excited! Santa Claus is coming to town.

It’s not long now. As far as Melbourne events go, it doesn’t get much bigger than the lead-up to Christmas. The city streets are decorated with lights and tinsel, the Christmas tree goes up in Federation Square and everyone is shopping for presents for their loved ones. Here’s where you can get into the festive spirit.

Federation Square becomes Christmas Square

Be amazed at how a magical spirit descends over Melbourne with the arrival of the annual Christmas Festival. Federation Square becomes a winter wonderland in the midst of summer when it is transformed into Christmas Square.

If you’re in the city on 30 November, get ready for the official lighting of the huge 16-metre-tall tree. There’ll be roving performers on the evening then, each night until 24 December, there’ll be daily shows of the Christmas lights the whole family will love.

If the kids want to whisper their hopes and dreams — or at least their Christmas wish list — into the jolly fat man’s ear, take them along to Santa’s House beneath the tree. Every day from 30 November (10am–12pm and 1pm–3pm daily, as well as 4pm–7pm Thursdays and Fridays) he and his elves will be welcoming both the nice and the naughty.

The Gingerbread Village is also back for another year. Made from 560 kilograms of tasty biscuit, it will feature famous Melbourne landmarks. Plus, you can buy festive treats there, with all profits supporting the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Getting There
Train Catch any train to Flinders Street Station.

The Christmas Story Behind Glass

Every year about 1.4 million people line up to take in the celebratory scenes of the Myer Christmas Windows on Bourke Street Mall. In 2018, the store is unveiling its 63rd take on the season. In the past, the Christmas windows have brought to life stories including The Twelve Days of Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Christmas Carol, as well as popular tales like Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

The grand unveiling has already taken place, so make your way to Myer to check out the latest story-telling masterpiece. The line to see the scenes is often quite long, but if you don’t have little kids with you, one of the best times to visit is later in the evening. Drop by for a squiz after you’ve been out to dinner or a movie.

While you’re there, visit the store and buy one of the Myer Christmas bears. In 2018, the bear is called Anthony in celebration of the life of Dainere Anthoney, who took solace in her own collection of Myer Christmas bears during her treatment for brain cancer, which sadly claimed her life in 2013. But not before she wrote a series of children’s book that starred her favourite bear, Theodore. A dollar from every $19.99 sale goes towards the Myer Stores Community Fund.

Also in Myer, you can go shopping for presents at the Giftorium on level six or take the kids to meet the man with the big beard at Santaland, where they can tell him their Christmas wishes and have their photograph taken.

Getting There
Tram Take tram routes 86 or 96 to stop 5/Bourke Street Mall and you’re almost directly outside.

The Evolution of Myer's Christmas Windows

If you’re someone who just can’t get enough of the Christmas spirit, head to Melbourne Museum where you can find out the full story behind one of the city’s most beautiful traditions, which began in 1956. Make Believe: The Story of the Myer Christmas Windows, on show now, showcases more than 250 quirky, unforgettable characters from windows past, as well as concept drawings, props, prototypes, puppets and animatronics. You’ll probably recognise many of the scenarios, since the themes each year are taken from popular children’s books.

You’ll see how this wonderful seasonal event has become one of the biggest on the Christmas calendar, and it’s a delight for both children and adults.

Getting There
Tram Take tram routes 86 or 96 to stop 11/Melbourne Museum.

Sing it loud

One of the biggest events on the Christmas calendar is Vision Australia’s Carols by Candlelight (24 December). Grab a patch of lawn at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl ­and sing your heart out to the songs you know and love. The event is hosted by David Campbell and Sonia Kruger, and includes performances by Anthony Callea, Tim Campbell, Denis Walter, David Hobson and Marina Prior. Of course, all performers donate their time and proceeds support children who are blind or have vision impairment. Tickets are on sale now from Ticketmaster. If you’ve got family events to attend on Christmas Eve, there’s also the chance to attend the rehearsal night on 23 December. Tickets for that go on sale in December.

Getting There
Tram Catch either tram route 3, 3a, 5, 16, 64 or 72 to stop 17 / Grant Street – Police Memorial and walk 650 metres.

That’s not your only chance to hit the Christmas high notes. Head to Keilor for Carols at the Castle (16 December). Held at Overnewton Castle, this is an event with more for everyone – food trucks, elves, fairies, Santa and Mrs Claus and, of course, plenty of singalongs. Melbourne singer Rebecca Barnard will be one of the musical highlights, plus there will be plenty of other local performers such as Tamara Murphy, Hugh Harvey and children’s stars Carp Productions. Family tickets start at just $20 (available from Eventbrite) and all proceeds go to the Brimbank Community Fund, which protects the area’s most vulnerable residents. And isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Getting There
Train Catch the Sunbury line train to Watergardens then order an Uber. It should cost you between $15 and $20.

Earlier in the month, you can introduce the entire family to the joys of an orchestra at Christmas with the MSO (8 December). During two performances at Hamer Hall ­– one at 1pm and the other at 5pm – ARIA Award nominee Greta Bradman will join the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to sing a traditional and contemporary repertoire, including ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Santa is even going to take time out from his busy schedule in the North Pole to drop by.

Getting There
Tram Catch either tram route 3, 3a, 5, 16, 64 or 72 to stop 14/Arts Precinct.

Sort out your Christmas Shopping

While there are amazing retail experiences year round in Melbourne, during the holiday season the calendar gets even more crowded with Christmas markets that are impossible to resist.

More than 230 craftspeople and designers will be selling their wares during the three-day shopping fest that is The Big Design Market (30 November–2 December) at Royal Exhibition Building. As well as being able to sort out presents for all those hard-to-buy-for relatives and friends, there’ll be creative workshops and kids’ activities throughout the event.

Getting There
Tram Catch either tram route 86 or 96 to stop 11/Melbourne Museum.

Kick off Christmas in style at the very first Koorie Krismas Market (1 December) at Federation Square. There’ll be stalls selling unique gifts from Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including jewellery, hand-woven baskets, artwork, clothes, native bush products and much more. It’s part of A Very Koorie Krismas on the same day. Between 11am and 4pm, there’ll be weaving workshops, kids’ activities, live music from Amis Roach and Brett Lee, and dance performances from Indigenous Hip Hop Projects. Plus, Koorie Klaus will be coming to town and making an appearance at 3pm.

Getting There
Train Catch any train to Flinders Street Station.

The annual French Xmas Market (15–16 December), hosted by Alliance Francaise de Melbourne at Eildon Mansion in St Kilda, is part cultural festival and part fair day. As well as providing a showcase for a variety of French produce and crafts, there’ll also be cabaret performers, theatre, children’s activities and food and wine.

Getting There
Tram Catch tram routes 3, 3a, 16 or 96 to stop 133/Canterbury Road and walk 200 metres.

For four weeks in the lead-up to Christmas, Coburg Night Market (Friday 30 November, and 7, 14 and 21 December) takes over Bridges Reserve. Expect stalls crammed with locally made products and produce, food trucks and live music.

Getting There
Tram Catch tram route 19 to stop 34/Bell Street-Sydney Road and walk 100 metres.