We’re officially entering Christmas season. Well, maybe we entered it in October. Or September. Either way, there’s no avoiding the seasonal cheer. But walking down the street, snaking through shopping centres or even scrolling on your phone, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Christmas has become a little cultivated.
Don’t get me wrong, I love an elegant tree and a perfectly designed table setting. But for most of us, Christmas is less a faultless festive flurry and more a tangled tinsel one; a scrappy, eclectic, mismatched pile of fun. It’s that mangled wreath you made in kinder that your mum refuses to throw away.
That sense of slightly daggy nostalgia is the inspiration behind Christmasland – a new seasonal pop-up from the team that gave us immersive candy exhibition Sugar Republic. This time around, the multi-room sensory experience is inspired by your parent’s box of broken Christmas decorations.
“We were inspired by the anticipation before Christmas, and how Christmas isn’t always all new and schmick,” says Allison Jones, the creative brains behind the operation. Rather than creating a picture-perfect wonderland, Jones set out to capture the festive season’s “sense of love and realness”.
Jones and her husband Paul first introduced us to their sugar-frosted version of the world last year when the pair transformed Smith Street’s heritage-listed MacRobertson Factory – the birthplace of sweet Aussie icons such as Freddo Frog and the Cherry Ripe – into Sugar Republic, a Willy Wonka-style fantasy full of sugary treats for kids and grown-ups alike. It was a hit, drawing in over 25,000 visitors across its eight-week run before heading to Sydney and Brisbane.
Now the duo is back in the original Fitzroy space to launch Christmasland, a bombastic mix of old- and new-school odes to the festive season. There’s an awkward family photo set, a scratch’n’sniff wall, a giant advent calendar, a giant snow globe you can climb inside, a marshmallow foam pit complete with slide, and a tinsel wall. Sugar Republic’s ball pit is back, but this time it’s candy-cane coloured (there are giant candy canes floating about in the pit, too). You can post your letter to Santa in a vintage Australian post box, and there’s even a room that’ll determine whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Needless to say, the whole place is highly selfie friendly.
Jones scoured the internet for all the vintage decorations, lights and signs in the exhibition. She even found an old department store Santa, and enough millennial pink Christmas trees to fill a whole room. She’s had help from neon signage mavens Electric Confetti ad Ballarat-based illustrator Travis Price. Artisan marshmallow company So Soft inspired the foam pit and provides samples as you clamber out, just in case you find yourself needing an extra sugar hit for energy.
In addition to the immersive rooms, each guest takes home four free confectionary samples, and there’s a gift shop and milk bar where you can buy more.
If you can’t make it down, don’t worry – everyone’s photos will be flooding your Instagram feed for weeks.
Christmasland is at 379 Smith Street, Fitzroy from November 10 to December 23, open Thursday to Monday. Tickets are $35 for general admission, $50 for VIP, $25 for children aged 2 to 12, and $5 for kids under 2. Ticket price includes one hour in the exhibition.