Christmas is a time of giving; a time of family, and a time of tender togetherness. An unfortunate consequence of the giving spirit, however, is that it takes an inevitable toll on everybody's bank accounts. So, with Christmas just one month away, what are some fun, seasonal activities for individuals, friends, and/or for the whole family that are practically free? My personal favourite is always visiting the beautiful decorations put up by various department stores and shopping centres. It's low effort, low cost, and a fantastic way to get into the Christmas spirit. This year, the Queen Victoria Building's Christmas decorations - aptly named "Forever the Magic of Christmas" - has been my favourite by far.
The underlying theme throughout the display is light, and not in hugely clustered together strings that are a staple of some other Christmas decorations; but rather in a beautifully well thought out way that compliments the classy feel of the building. See an abundance of small bursts of bright, white lights shining throughout the shopping complex. They cover the railings in the middle of the centre, as well as the gorgeous beacon of light that is the Santa Photos booth. The simple sparkling that covers the huge Christmas tree in the middle of it all is just the icing on the cake. If you want your photo taken on Santa's lap this year, be assured that the surroundings will be enough to keep you amused. Even if you have to wait in line.
Santa's not here right now. He must be too busy making toys.
The iconic Queen Victoria Building Christmas tree spans three floors, and continues to tower far up into the high ceiling of the building's top level - where it ends with a giant pointed star atop its peak. Many of the decorations are provided by Swarovski, including shining bars of glittering crystals that adorn the entire tree. The rest of the decorations are very minimal, in the form of small red flowers, where the tree appears classy and beautiful rather than overwhelming. The huge base of the tree is on the ground floor, and the "trunk" is made entirely of lights. This provides a pretty backdrop for photographs, and perhaps even to be used for Christmas cards. The sheer size of the tree also helps to draw out the experience, and provide multiple photo opportunities on each level - rather than the main attraction of the display only being in one area. Viewers can take their time and appreciate each section for as long as they wish.
The perfect spot for Christmas selfies.
So, why exactly have I chosen the Queen Victoria Building as my favourite? It sounds and looks impressive. However, what are the factors that really make it stand out above all of the others?
I believe that the simple use of light creates a beautiful and classy feel, while still appearing traditional. It is also reasonably non-denominational. While it is obviously a Christmas display with a tree and Santa Claus, there are no outwardly religious symbols within the decorations to make those who do not celebrate religiously feel uncomfortable.
Finally, I appreciate that the display is indoors, and can be very easily reached from the Town Hall train station; of which is entirely underground. It is easy to get to. The price of the train ticket is the only fee for the entire viewing experience. Our Sydney weather has been extremely unpredictable so far this Summer, and so I am a fan of any activity that can be enjoyed in comfort despite potential heat, cold, rain - or even wind.
Rudolph is much happier inside next to Santa
If you're time poor this Christmas and can only make it to one display before the big day arrives, I would highly recommend the Queen Victoria Building.
Where: The Queen Victoria Building, 455 George St Sydney.
Why: A simple yet beautiful Christmas experience.
Cost: Free, other than transport to Town Hall station.