Monday, December 24, 2012

Carols By Candlelight

This is a uniquely Australian Christmas tradition held in all major cities - and many smaller centres as well.

Although there has been group carol singing for centuries all over the world the idea of holding carol singing for the public at a central place originated in Melbourne in Victoria. The idea came from a radio announcer, Norman Banks, who aimed to get people together to join in singing favourite Christmas carols. The first Carols by Candlelight were held in Melbourne in 1938. The idea spread and now Carols by Candlelight (or in places where there is a high fire hazard by torchlight) take place across the country usually on the last weekend before Christmas or on Christmas Eve.

For those lucky enough to experience it there's no question that there is something very special about sitting out on the grass on a warm summer's night with candles flickering in their holders and lighting the faces of the crowd as they join in traditional carols and other Christmas songs along with the singers and massed choirs.

The two biggest events are Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne (sponsored by Channel Nine) and Carols in the Domain in Sydney (sponsored by Channel Seven) both of which are telecast by their sponsors. To me, the downside of this sponsorship is that there is a lot of promotion of shows on the channels and that makes for a somewhat commercial feel. Still most people see that as a small price or even actively enjoy it so I guess I'm out of step there.

We don't always get to the carols - those in Perth are held on the weekend before Christmas - but we have our own tradition associated with them. Every Christmas Eve Pisces settles in with Carols By Candlelight from Melbourne on the television while he makes the fruit salad from Christmas dinner. Combining the traditional celebratory carols of Christmas with the pleasure of preparing food to share with loved ones is not a bad way to acknowledge both the religious and social aspects of Christmas, in my opinion.

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