Carols by Candlelight

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Carols by Candlelight is an Australian Christmas tradition that has spread around the world. It involves people gathering, usually outdoors in a park, to sing carols by candlelight, accompanied by a band.


Carols by Candlelight was begun in Melbourne in 1938 by Norman Banks, a radio announcer then with Melbourne radio station 3KZ. Whilst walking home from his night-time radio shift on Christmas Eve in 1937, he passed a window and saw inside an elderly woman sitting up in bed, listening to Away in a Manger being played on the radio and singing along, with her face being lit by candlelight. Wondering how many others spent Christmas alone, he had the idea to gather a large group of people to all sing Christmas carols together by candlelight, and the first such event was held in the Alexandra Gardens the following Christmas. This first event had 10,000 people attend.

Following World War II, the Carols moved to the nearby Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where they are still held to this day. Also, funds raised from donations were given the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind, now Vision Australia, who are still the beneficiaries.


Similar events are now held all over Australia, usually arranged by churches, municipal councils, or other community groups. They are normally held on Christmas Eve or the Sunday before Christmas. The major Australian events are the Melbourne Carols (which attracts about 30,000 people) and the Sydney Carols held in The Domain (which attracts about 20,000). Both of these are televised nationally.

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