For me, the Christmas season means the smell of Christmas tree and mangoes, scorching hot summer days and getting together with family. It means barbecues, summer markets and the beach.
In Australia, Christmas is at the beginning of the summer holidays, so added to the excitement of the festive season is the knowledge that there will be no school for several months! Of course adults still have to go to work, but many people take some time off to enjoy the summer. And yes, Santa does visit us Down Under (but we like to say that he arrives on a surfboard!)
Many people celebrate Christmas even if they are not religious, and usually the main event is lunch on the 25th, which can be a roast like in Europe, or a barbecue in the garden or at the beach. Seafood is also a very popular choice in coastal cities. This is often accompanied by salads and summer fruit.
Melbourne is a very multi-cultural city, and many people don’t celebrate Christmas at all, but the months from November to March are the best of the year and filled with interesting things to do. Here are a few reasons why this is my favourite season in Melbourne:
- The Queen Victoria Market is one of the first places I like to go when I go home, to buy a big box of mangoes which are sometimes as cheap as .50c per fruit! That way I can eat them every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner
The Vic Market first opened in 1878 and is the biggest market in Melbourne. It is located in the city centre and has an indoor section (like les halles) with stores selling fresh fish, meat, Italian and Greek delicacies, German bratwurst and even French cheese! The largest part of the market consists of huge covered sheds, filled with fresh fruit and vegetable stands selling all kinds of products. There are also souvenir stores catering to tourists, but many locals buy their food there every week.
They also have a night market every Wednesday night in summer, with food stalls from all over the world and many artisanal products “ it’s a good place to do some Christmas shopping!
- The St Kilda Twilight Market runs every Thursday night in summer and is quite different from the Vic Night Market because it’s next to the beach. It has a magical atmosphere with little individual stands selling handcrafted products and food, and after dark fire-twirlers light up the night to the sound of African percussion. This is a must for me every year – I love to wander around the market, and then get some fish and chips on Ackland Street and eat them on the beach.
3.There’s nothing like New Years Eve in summer. Melbourne has a reputation for unreliable weather, but New Year is almost always hot sometimes it doesn’t go below 30C all night! The City of Melbourne puts on a fireworks display in the CBD which is spectacular, but you have to get there early to get a good spot, because it gets very crowded The best thing to do is to go to one of Melbourne’s many beaches and watch the fireworks from there, there will be people around but fewer than in the city centre!
- A great thing to do on a hot summer evening is to go see a film at an open air cinema, of which Melbourne has an abundance. One of my favourites is the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens, where you can watch a film and eat a picnic on the grass, surrounded by nature. Another good option is Rooftop Cinema, which sets up a cinema in an outdoor bar on the top of a building, with a view of the CBD by night.
- Melbourne prides itself on its vibrant bar culture and one highly-recommended activity is bar-hopping, where you discover many different bars in one evening. The most fashionable bars are those that are hidden in one of the city’s many graffiti-covered laneways, and often you have to go up or down some stairs or knock on a door to find them.
- Chinese New Year is an important cultural event in Melbourne every year, starting at the end of January or the beginning of February and running for about a week. There are celebrations in China Town and many other parts of the city, including traditional music, fireworks and a dragon parade.