The Magic of Christmas in Central Australia

While Christmas tree festivals may not be well known in much of Australia, guides in Alice Springs ran a community Christmas event between 1996 and 2001.

One of the founders of this event, Karen Byrne, was kind enough to share the following article and photos…

The Magic of Christmas building in Alice Springs

How it began

Written by Margaret Rudwick for Guiding in Australia, March 1997.

Karen Byrne and Sue Ride sat relaxing outside a local church one afternoon, guarding the white balloons they had just blown up, each with a paper dove attached, ready for the annual Peace Day service.

It occurred to them that there were a number of community–wide activities run each year by local organisations, but Guides in Alice Springs did not have one. And so a crazy idea occurred to them – why not do something special for the people of Alice Springs, and in doing so, put Guiding on the annual calendar?

“Crazy,“ says Sue “because we should have known what we were letting ourselves in for!”

“I’d always had an idea we could do something at the Guide Hall for families, something affordable,” says Karen, “and as no–one else in town had a major Christmas activity it seemed just the thing to do.”

And so the Magic of Christmas was born.

Planning the Magic of Christmas

Plans were made, and not on a small scale!

The whole of the Guide Hall was to be decorated, a dozen or so distinct displays set up, and local families encouraged to come and share together the Magic of Christmas.

Local suppliers were generous with their donations and not one knock–back was received in a whole day of canvassing the town, although there was some confusion over the collectors’ enthusiasm for “rubbish” in the form of polystyrene sheets & boxes!

The Trefoil Guild donated $500 which was the only cash received and enabled the purchase of the crepe paper (yes, we used a lot of crepe paper!) The Support Group provided the bags of sweets for Father Christmas to give out. Members of both these groups gave of their time and skills throughout the opening hours, adding to the Magic for all the visitors.

About two weeks before opening day, the real work started.
The Magic of Christmas door, complete with gingerbread man

The making of the Magic of Christmas

All four interior walls of the hall were to be lined with red, white and green crepe paper – this had to be double thickness to hide the murals on the walls. Now the hall is quiet a reasonable size so this is no mean feat! Although a large quantity had been special ordered there never seemed to be enough so Sue’s mother, Joan Higgins, was kept busy scouring the town for more. One of the complicating things was that different brands came in different shades so acquiring just what  was wanted was really difficult.

“Kilometres of crepe paper,” groans Joan.

“Have you ever covered a hall in crepe paper?” asks Karen. “You get it up nice and firmly, and then you go home for the night.”

“But, horror of horrors,” Sue adds, “when you walk in next morning all the even, straight paper you left the night before has sagged and gone all crinkly overnight. It took us a while to realise it was just the unseasonable humidity. By mid morning, it would be dried out and look fine again.”

“Even though it happened each night we still worried about it each morning,” says Karen.

Once the crepe paper was up – and there are stories of ladders, and chairs on tables and other indescribable ways of doing the job – the setting up of displays could start.

A false front made the hall look like a little red Christmas house complete with a letter box for posting letters to Father Christmas – all of which were answered. Inside, the focal point was to be Father Christmas at the far end.

Christmas displays

From the entrance and down each side were almost a dozen separate themes including:

  • A two meter high advent calendar. One visitor each day was lucky enough to open a window on it which revealed a different Christmas scene;
  • A trading table which sold small Christmas items suitable as children’s gifts to family and friends.
  • Stained glass window – all the windows were transformed into the Three Wise Men, Candles or Bells created with cellophane and black cardboard.
  • An Australian Christmas theme, complete with native tree, a swag, native birds, all under the Southern Cross.
  • A Guide corner where there was a large red Christmas tree on which there was a photo of every single guide and leader in Alice Springs. Every girl bringing her family could point out her photo and those of her friends. Christmas tree made of a collage of photos
  • A section showing Christmas traditions from overseas countries including England, Scotland, Mexico, Italy and France.
  • A snow scene with a snowman and a beautiful free standing reindeer.
  • A traditional tree with 24 gifts in a sleigh beside it. One lucky child each day was able to open one of these.
  • A teddy bear’s corner with a small competition.

Devonshire tea and coffee was supplied by the trefoil Guild, and they also ran a small raffle. There were treats for the children there, too.

There was a children’s play area with games, a video and a train set for the young ones who did not need (want!) to spend so much time looking at the details.  In fact, not a part of the Guide Hall was left undecorated – streamers, snowflakes and stars covered the ceiling and angles, and novelty trees, lanterns and candles added to the magic in corners and on the floor. Glitter covered the carpet.

Sue and Karen are adamant it was well worth it. “Our families didn’t see us at home very much for a couple of weeks,” says Karen, “but they came along and helped us!”

“And help us they did – we would never have done it without their fantastic support,” adds Sue. “And not just by helping us to put up the displays either. Karen’s husband ,Greg, had to manage without his hat and my husband, Graham, lost his boots to the swagman! Whilst Karen’s children Raymond and Rene talk of leaving town at Christmas time, we suspect they will be there again offering their tired mum a coffee in bed, or waiting tea until everyone is home at 10pm.”

“Home“ says Karen wryly “was where they went to escape the crepe paper, and the monotonous diet of cold coffee and guide biscuits!”

collage of cardboard Christmas trees made by guides

Magic of Christmas outcomes

Over 1,000 families visited the hall in the time it was open and entry was free.

And was it worth it?

“Just to see the children’s faces made it  worthwhile” said Karen.

Father Christmas was always there no matter what time a family dropped in. If he wasn’t sitting in his chair he would always appear within a few minutes of someone’s arrival and he had a bag of lollies for all his young visitors.

Each child had their photo taken with Santa, with the photo being available for sale next day, and although there was no obligation to buy, most people did come back a purchase a copy.

Planning is already well in hand for next Christmas. Bigger and better things are planned and there will be many changes, including more activities and visitor involvement, and some moving displays.

Families will be charged a gold coin donation to enter, not to make a profit, but to improve the displays for the following year. School groups will be admitted free during the day.

But crepe paper will be out – paint is in next time!

“What we set out to do was make a Christmas spectacle on a shoestring – to do something anyone, anywhere could do. All you need is unlimited imagination,”  says Sue.

“If two housewives in Alice can make the Magic of Christmas, then so can anyone else in any other small town in Australia,” says Karen.

Nativity scene in Alice Springs

Karen further told me “We had so much fun doing it and seeing the faces of the kids was great!

“For me personally, I loved the fact there was somewhere Mums could take their kids on a hot day and not have to say no all the time. The relaxation on their faces was obvious – it was too demoralising visiting the air conditioned shops every day when on a tight budget so they appreciated the Magic of Christmas. Many returned several times!”

SO maybe there is a challenge to us all – set up our own tree festivals or complete Christmas displays like the Magic of Christmas!

Christmas has arrived – have a great one!

From Santa and the Love Santa Elves, please have a safe and very

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful day today and remember to share a little Christmas magic with as many people as you can.

And Happy New Year!

Children dressed as Santa's helper and Christmas fairy dancing

Dance your way through a very Christmas, just like Santa’s helper and the Christmas fairy!

Putting up the tree

On the first of December, my 3 siblings, mum and dad and I put up the Christmas tree, we spent about an hour together, watching the kids’ laugh and feel the magic of Christmas.

Each decoration that Mum handed the little 2 they would ask her “Is this mine”?

three children decorating a Christmas tree at home

They are taking Christmas tree decorating seriously – it’s lovely to see children working together.

After the tree was up, my oldest younger sister and I were mucking about, and joked that the kids were the same size as their stocking’ so we put the little two ones into them and they were walking around the place in theses big red stockings nearly their height.

Probably the most fun we have all had in a while 🙂 Can’t wait for next year!!

Christmas is for adults too…

Have you ever said ‘Christmas is less fun without little kids’? Have your ver put more effort into making Christmas special because there are kids involved?

Santa's adult smile behind Christmas treeChildren have the wonder and belief that makes Christmas so magical, and that awe can help us adults remember how special Christmas can be. So it is right that we make an effort to keep the magic alive for kids.

But is it all for the kids?

So many Christmas activities and arrangements revolve around the kids, such as

While it is great to make kids happy, I sometimes feel a bit sad that adults are left out of the planning for happiness. Why shouldn’t adults get presents to make them feel special, too?

It is often the case that adults run around preparing all the Christmas celebrations and find the whole thing tiring. I think a little more magic for the adults would make that work less tiring.

Christmas for adults

So this year, what special touches can we add to Christmas to ensure adults feel the magic, too? What would make your Christmas happier?

It doesn’t have to be more gifts or big ideas, just little things that make the day about everyone, not just the kids.

Pulling together to give a special Christmas wish

I just read a newspaper story about Santa and wanted to share it. I also found the YouTube video of it which brought tears to my eyes.

In Lebanon, a young girl, Carmen, had a wish of getting an iPad for Christmas. the Tamanna Lebanon organization (a group like Make-a-Wish who help critically ill children get a special wish granted) took it a step further and had Santa present the iPad to her during her chemotherapy even though it was September.

Santa loves surprises and Christmas decorations!With help from various groups, Carmen (and the unsuspecting shoppers!) was surprised with a street full of Christmas decorations, confetti and music. A helicopter delivered Santa to Carmen with her gift and a banner wished her Merry Christmas.

It is lovely Carmen was given such a treat during horrific treatments.

I also love the fact how many people came together, cooperated and didn’t charge a cent to bring the magic of Christmas alive of r a stranger – and all the other people who surrounded her.

Can you think of a way to bring a little more Christmas magic into your community this year?

Your Magical Santa Moment

Santa peering around a Christmas treeWhat is your favourite Santa memory? That time when the magic of Santa fully hit you and left you feeling on top of the world.

Maybe it was a special gift he left you, or the signs he left behind as he rushed to the next house of sleeping children.

Maybe it was one of Santa’s helpers you saw at a party or shop that did something special, or maybe it was a family tradition in preparation for Santa’s arrival.

Now is your chance to share that precious memory and bring a smile to our faces, too 🙂

What’s your favourite Christmas story?

Girl reading story at Christmas

Sharing stories at Christmas

At Love Santa, we love Christmas and Santa and all the magic that goes with those celebrations. We love to share that happiness and to hear people’s stories and ideas.

So we invite you to tell us your favourite Christmas story on this blog – whether you just make others smile or you share a great tradition/idea, your contribution will brighten the Christmas magic so what are you waiting for?

Simply share your story by writing it in the form. We’ll check it is ok (just to keep out any spammers and non-family friendly content) and make it live so your story is shared.

The magic of Christmas…

Houve covered in bright Christmas lightsCan you feel it in the air?

Every time you see Christmas lights and smile, feel a twinge of nostalgia at a carol, go back in time at the smell of pine leaves, get excited over presents, or otherwise enjoy the moments of Christmas, you are feeling the magic of Christmas that I love.

Many people complain about this time of year, and I agree that it can be overwhelming to have many events to prepare for and meeting commercialised expectations of gifts, but I think it is lovely to stop and enjoy the magic occasionally.

There are people who will steal this magic away, and it’s up to us to keep it safe. I try not to listen to the anti-Christmas crowd, and I certainly don’t include their comments in this blog (this blog is about Christmas and Santa  for families and comments out of that mind set are rejected – sorry if that offends but that’s my prerogative.) Even science, which brings us many things, has its limits and has no real place where people are knowingly enjoying the magic and spirit of the holiday.

How do you deal with people who try to destroy your belief and pleasure in the magical aspects of Christmas? How do you keep the wonder alive and spread it to others?

So we wish you a Merry Christmas full of the magic and wonder felt by children everywhere.

Christmas Decorations

Christmas tree with golden decorationsChristmas decorations have been in the shops for ages, but many traditions say they the tree and decorations shouldn’t be out until December.

Putting up decorations too early takes away some of the magic of Christmas, I feel. They are there so long they have less impact when Santa arrives – they become part of the backgorund.

I also think it is confusing for young children – they see decorations and trees and Santas so assume it is Christmas tomorrow – how hard it is to explain “no, Santa isn’t coming for another 2 or 3 months yet”. Frustrating for parents, too.

When do you put up a tree at home? Do you decorate the rest of the house as well?


Santa and Christmas provide magic and happiness to many children and adults around the world.

I am proud to have been asked by Santa to help him keep up with his letter writing each Christmas, but I still want to do more to keep the magic alive. So I have started this blog to share Christmas memories, traditions and ideas.

Everyone is welcome to share their special Christmas and Santa memories in this blog. Remember that if it is a precious memory to you, it can be included no matter how simple or insignifcant it may seem.

Love Santa’s Elf

Share your Christmas story