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Carols by Candlelight is an Australian Christmas tradition that originated in Melbournemarker in the early 20th century and has spread around the world. It involves people gathering, usually outdoors in a park, to sing carol by candlelight, accompanied by a band.


Carols by Candlelight was begun in Melbournemarker 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 Gardensmarker the following Christmas. This first event had 10,000 people attend.

Following World War II, many people began to sing the Carols as they moved to the nearby Sidney Myer Music Bowlmarker, where they are still held to this day. Funds raised from donations, ticket, and candle sales are given to Vision Australia (formerly the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind).


The program is broadcast every Christmas Eve on the Nine Network at the Sidney Myer Music Bowlmarker and has been hosted for 18 years by Ray Martin. Because of the arrangement the show often features Nine stars such as Hi-5.

Years Host(s) Australian TV Network
1980-1989 Brian Naylor Nine Network
1990-2007 Ray Martin
2008-present Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson


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 Melbournemarker Carols (which attracts about 30,000 people) held at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve (broadcast on the Nine Network) and the Sydneymarker Carols in the Domain (broadcast by the Seven Network) and borrows the shape of its stage from its big brother, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne. Both of these are televised nationally and the Melbourne Carols By Candlelight is televised also to eastern Asia, many Pacific Islands and New Zealand, live.

In Brisbanemarker the Lord Mayor's Christmas Carols (Carols in the City) are held about a week before Christmas, at the Brisbane River Stagemarker in the Brisbane City Botanic Gardensmarker.

In Perthmarker, Carols by Candlelight are held in mid December at the Supreme Court Gardens, while other events are held at Fremantlemarker, Scarboroughmarker and Rockinghammarker.

In Adelaidemarker, Carols by Candlelight is held in the weeks before Christmas in Elder Parkmarker on the banks of the River Torrens.

In Newcastle, New South Walesmarker, Carols by Candlelight are held in mid December, both at Speers Point Park near Lake Macquariemarker and at King Edward Park in the city near the beach.

In Hobartmarker, due to the urban nature of the city, there are three main carols services. One each in Clarence, Glenorchymarker and the main ceremony in Sandown Park in Sandy Bay, Hobartmarker itself.

In Geelongmarker, there is Denis Walter's Carols by the Bay held on the first Saturday of December. This is held at Eastern Beach. There is also Carols in the Park in Johnston Park on Christmas Eve.

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