Christmas Eve – Melbourne

The city is abuzz with activity; Federation Square is filled with people wandering around. With everyone in shorts and short sleeve shirts, it loses the Christmas feeling. It does not matter to me since I have lost that Christmas feeling many years ago, but it still strikes me as strange. No one seems to be hurrying along to get their Christmas shopping done either. So many people, so few bags of goodies to be wrapped and put under the tree. I think the difference is that perhaps people here have it in perspective of not letting it get too commercialized. Melbourne offers a free tourist bus that goes around the city, number 999. We rode the entire circuit as it makes a wide loop around the city hitting popular sights. It beats a hop on and hop off bus. When you want to catch it again, it will stop at every thirty minutes. Although there is no commentary like a tour bus, our driver did announce some highlights as we went along. At the end of the route, we stopped at the Melbourne Contemporary Art Gallery for a look around. We were attracted to it due to the sheet of water that serves as a fountain for its glass wall entry. Admission is free, but we only went to look at the stained glass exhibited in the rear gallery, but later was seduced into the back yard where lawn art was on display and which was quite diverse. One statue of Rodin was displayed next to a Mexican mosaic. As we were leaving, we noticed what we had missed coming in, statues of emaciated nude people of various ages standing with the watery curtain of glass as a back drop. Our original purpose in going in the museum was to use the restrooms, but the glass caught our eye and then one thing led to another. As we left this museum, we seemed to find fairy girls roaming the streets with adults. Little girls who were dressed in fairy costumes were swarming the area. We could only assume they came from a recital of some sort. They were so adorable with little wings sprouting from their backs. We assumed they were little girls in costumes, but then again, this country does have some real oddities, so you never know. Strolling without a goal or purpose, we found ourselves down by the wharf where the largest casino in Australia happens to be. It could very well be the largest in the world, taking up multiple blocks, rising up into the clouds, and having everything under the sun in the lobby from shopping to restaurants to multiplex cinemas. Along one bridge, there are metal statues spanning the length. These statues are representations of aboriginal symbols. During the day, we were told they move ever so slowly, so you don’t even notice unless you have not looked at them for an hour or more. At each end of the bridge is a legend of the meaning of each piece. Just looking at them, one would not have a clue what they represented. The only exception is one of a man and woman who look like their dancing. After you read the summary of what each one represents, there is an expanded appreciation of the aboriginal themes and stories. On another bridge, the city has huge panels of glass installed. On each panel going in alphabetical order, there is etched the immigration information for a group of people who came to Australia and those that stayed in Melbourne. For example, and these numbers will not be correct, but a typical panel would show: Afghanistans 20,000 to Australian 12,000 to Melbourne Cities in Afghanistan where they came from Reasons for coming: Social persecution Religious freedom Increased changes of better employment Better education Languages spoken: This serves to engage the multiculturalism of the city and embrace it. Everyone we spoke to said that they appreciated the multicultural-multifaceted nature of the city believing it made a richer heritage for everyone. In the evening, we were torn between two activities both of which were being held in Federation Square. One was the the unwrapping of the Advent calendar again for the final night and the other was something we were not able to get tickets for. Each year, they offer Christmas Carols by Candlelight, a fund raiser for a children’s health organization. It was sold out, so we could not see it in person. In Federation Square, they have it televised on the gargantuan television screen on the square. Personally, it was probably a good thing it was sold out. All of the entertainers were Australians we had never heard of before, some hosts of local talk shows. We watched about thirty minutes of the show with Australian singers who just released a new album or just had their latest child, performed some Christmas carols we were either familiar with or not, but what was unusual was that they would come out to perform looking like they were headed to the corner store after popping out of bed on a Saturday morning. A few of them seemed so out of place with their dress for a Christmas special and one woman singer, had a lovely evening gown on with flip-flops. What we watched was interesting, but not worth the price of tickets for us, which were $25.00 a piece I think. A block away from the square, there is a large Christmas tree made of green metal with metal ornaments and lights. Every half hour, the lights flash and the tree sings a Christmas song. One wall along side the tree is covered with sayings that run into each other making it difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. This is named the Nativity Wall, yet no where in the city did we see a nativity scene set up, not even on church lawns. By 10:30 at night, the streets were still lively, many families out with their children, making me wonder why they were not home waiting for Santa. They must have him here, since more than one place had a “visit Santa” or “have your picture taken with Santa”. We went back to our hotel by midnight, I naively thought that the bar would be empty, being Christmas Eve, but not so, it was full. Thankfully, most were in the beer garden at the back of the building, but the music permeates the whole building. The boom, boom, boom, bass sounds is reminiscent of many decades ago. How uncreative to still have a boom, boom, boom beat continuing into the 21st century.