‘Tis the season for carols. Not a weekend in December goes by without the possibility of attending an open-air carol concert. It’s a great Aussie tradition generally comprising performances of Christmas songs old and new, a sausage sizzle, soft-serve cones, Santa’s arrival on a fire truck to distribute lollies (sweets) to the littlies and – if you’re lucky – some fireworks to round off the evening. But all events pale in comparison with the BIG ONE, Carols by Candlelight*, which has been held in Melbourne every year since 1938, and is now televised live on Christmas Eve. In this glitzy festive extravaganza, international stars, home-grown celebs, and kiddies’ favourites take to the stage to entertain the masses.
Icklegen and I are not quite ready for activity on this scale, so we opted to stay local and popped along to Gwandalan to see what Carols by the Lake had to offer. This was definitely not a mass-marketed media event: there were a couple of banners on display and a small entry in the free monthly courier we get delivered, and that was about it. And why not keep it that way? A happy, friendly gathering of people you recognise from the next street, playgroup, the local shops…let me tell you, it was lovely. And what a backdrop too, with the waters of Lake Macquarie glistening in the late afternoon sunshine.
The weather was a balmy 25 degrees as we arrived, lured by the enticing smell of sausages and bacon sizzling on the barbie. All a far cry from carol singing when I was a lass, where we would rug up in our winter woollies and walk around in the inky dark, gloved hands stuffed in our pockets, singing our hearts out in the chill night air, and hoping we’d be invited into a warm house for a mince pie and glass of mulled wine.
There was a variety of performances, including a local choir from Tuggerah, a small band, and a couple of soloists. But it’s about so much more than the music; these outdoor events provide a wonderful occasion for family and friends to sit down, relax and chat, and perhaps indulge in a sausage sandwich or soft-serve dipped in sprinkles (or Milo – now that’s a new one for me!)
Icklegen had other ideas though; she quickly tired of the picnic rug and set off to explore her new and exciting surroundings. Quite a crowd had gathered by this point, and some of her little friends had arrived too, which made it all the more fun. She charged around, looking at everything and even tried to burst onto the stage (perhaps she’s an artiste in the making unlike her stage-shy mummy!) My favourite part of the evening, though, was of her and another friend dancing with two older girls right at the front, spinning around and around, and loving every minute.
We didn’t manage to stay until Santa’s grand entrance, alas, although Icklegen is none the wiser. It’ll make it doubly special for her next year when our little part of Lake Macquarie rocks again.
*To be fair, Sydney’s ‘Carols in the Domain’ has the larger attendance. At 31 years young, it is a mere whipper snapper alongside its Melbourne rival, but definitely an institution in its own right.