There are certain things you can expect to see in the city in December: giant Christmas decorations hanging above the rattling trams on Bourke Street, buskers playing carols on the street, families queuing to see the Myer Christmas Windows and harried shoppers, bags in hand, racing to buy all their gifts in time.
While these traditions roll around with comforting regularity, the city also hosts some festive events that you might not expect. The Christmas Festival, which runs until December 25, will bring foodie masterclasses, a ‘How To Make Gravy’ sing-along – hosted by Clare Bowditch – and a Christmas-themed punk gig to the CBD. (For the classics, don’t miss the Christmas tree sound and light show in Fed Square, which goes from 9pm to 11pm nightly until December 25.)
Here are our top picks of the festival.
Very Merry Kitchen
Food lovers can expect to be well sated throughout the festival. Head to Queensbridge Square between December 12 and 15 when teenage baking sensation Morgan Hipworth (of Bistro Morgan fame) takes over the space between 8am and 4pm as part of the Very Merry Kitchen. Sample Hipworth’s opulent doughnuts and see why the young bloke has become one of the most successful foodie entrepreneurs of the last five years. Look out for his bespoke Christmas creations, too.
An antidote for the hot weather can be found at the same venue from December 19 to 22, when the team at Gelato Messina take up residence to scoop up exquisite, Christmas-inspired gelato.
December 12 to 15, 8am to 4pm
December 19 to 22, 12 to 8pm
Very Merry Kitchen, Queensbridge Square, Southbank
Now in its ninth year, a miniature Melbourne made entirely from gingerbread (and a few other sweet treats) will be on display at St. Collins Lane for the duration of the festival. A gold coin donation gets you into Gingerbread Village, and all funds raised go to the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Put together by Epicure’s pastry chefs, the replica city features landmarks such as Luna Park, Young and Jacksons and the Flemington Racecourse, all recreated in intricate, mouth-watering detail. The only downside we can see is that the city is strictly look, but don’t eat.
November 30 to December 24, 9am to 8.15pm daily
St. Collins Lane, Level 1, 260 Collins Street
Vegan Turkey Masterclass
Vegans can look forward to a Vegan Turkey Masterclass at Henry and the Fox on December 15. Head chef Meurig Jones will guide you through the steps to make a perfect vegan turkey, with macadamia and cranberry stuffing, plus vegan gravy and fruit mince pies.
A Very Vegan Christmas Lunch will be served afterwards (with a selection of vegan wines, of course), and you can take home your creations.
December 15, 12¬pm to 3pm
Henry and the Fox, 525 Little Collins Street
Carlton Christmas Cinema
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas movies, and what better place to watch a flick than in an outdoor cinema in the middle of a restaurant strip?
Argyle Square is transformed into the Carlton Christmas Cinema from 8.30pm each Saturday night of the festival, showing classics such as The Nightmare Before Christmas (December 7), The Holiday (December 14) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (December 21). All sessions are free, but seating is limited, so it’s first in best dressed.
Every Saturday in December until Christmas, 8.30pm to 11pm
Carlton Christmas Cinema, Argyle Square, 153 Lygon Street, Carlton
8 Days of Xmas at Section 8
Anyone craving a festive drink in a decked-out laneway bar should head for Section 8 in Tattersalls Lane. More than 40 artists, musicians and DJs are booked to perform from December 18 to 25.
It all culminates with their annual Orphan’s Christmas free BBQ on Christmas Day. The festival opens with a fundraiser for Black Rainbow, a not-for-profit supporting LGBTQI Indigenous youth through creative initiatives and mental health programs.
December 18 to 25, 5pm until late
Section 8, 27-29 Tattersalls Lane
Carols at the Baths
New this year to the festival is Carols at the Baths, a one-off performance of Christmas Carols by the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus, held at the Carlton Baths on Rathdowne Street on December 15. Kids can swim with Santa in the pool, and perhaps try to push him off the promised giant inflatable. This could be our pick of holiday activities.
December 15, 1pm to 5pm
Carlton Baths, 216/248 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
Carols by Candlelight
Those who prefer their carols more traditional and less pool party can bring a rug down to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve for the 82nd rendition of Carols by Candlelight. The event is sponsored by Vision Australia and all funds raised go directly to providing services for children affected by sight loss.
December 24, 8pm to 11pm
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Kings Domain
For more events at the Christmas Festival, you’ll find more details here.
This article was produced by Broadsheet in partnership with City of Melbourne.