It is generally agreed that "Carols by Candlelight" was started in Melbourne, Australia by radio announcer Norman Banks in 1937 after he saw a woman listening to carols alone by candlelight. Banks decided to do something to relieve the loneliness and isolation some feel during the Christmas period. He announced community carol singing for anyone who wanted to join in. The concept has grown in popularity over the years, and the recorded program is now broadcast the world over.
From Carol, January 2005
Norman Banks is indeed the creator of the Carols by Candlelight which is enjoyed all around Australia - I know this because he was my grandfather and he promoted the first few Carols through the radio station he worked at. He was also famous for his radio programs and a short period on television.
Every year when we sit down to enjoy the Carols we remember him. In case you are wondering why it is used by the Victorian Institute for the Blind as a major fundraiser, it is probably because Norman was blind for most of the time I remember him.
I was 21 when he died in September 1985 so I remember only some of his career. He also wrote a carol, which he named the 'Melbourne Carol'.
December 2016 This page was created in about 1999 and has had very few amendments since that date.
Last night watching 'Carols in the Domain' which is the Sydney version of 'Carols by Candlelight' I noticed that the candles had disappeared and been replaced by battery powered led type lighting.
Carols by Candlelight is held every year in the week before Christmas, when thousands of people gather in the parks of the larger towns and cities to sing their favourite Christmas carols.
A stage is the center of attraction for the event and may consist of a temporary stage using the flat tray of a semi-trailer truck or a permanent facility such as the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne where it is an annual fund raising event for the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind.
Available are carol sheets and candles, with candle holders to protect tiny fingers from hot candle wax. Food and drink stalls are usually staffed by local Rotary or Lions Clubs. Many people bring blankets or portable chairs for seating.
Entertainment and carols singing commences before darkness falls. At about half light the person comparing the evening announces the time has come to light the candles causing much excitement among the children and older participants. The lighting is turn off and the park is lit by many candles while families and friends continue singing carols under a clear night sky with its Southern Cross stars.
The fact that this time of year is also the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere ensures warm weather which allows Australians to enjoy this tradition. Occasionally rain will cause the event to be moved indoors provided there is time to publicise the change of venue, if time is not available it often continues in the rain with all wearing wet weather covering. Even though it is raining it is not cold at this time of the year. See Christmas in Australia is often very hot
Well known entertainers sing solos and lead the audience in singing. There is usually a band or orchestra and Father Christmas often appears. At some Carols by Candlelight a Nativity scene may also be on display, and some also end the evening with a fireworks display.
The function commences before dark and runs until about 10.00 pm depending on the latitude of the location. As Australia spans from above the Tropic of Capricorn to 40 degrees south, sunset is at a later time the further south you go.
State capital cities usually telecast and/or broadcast the major Carols by Candlelight evening in the state which features musical stars who sing their favourite carols as seen in this early.
Most towns over about 2,000 population hold a Carols by Candlelight in their local park with local businesses usually provide some sponsorship for the evening. The program features local artists, plenty of community Carol singing, and now days large screen TV monitors may be available.
In summary Carols by Candlelight is hundreds of happy faces of children of all ages, mothers, fathers and grandparents all enjoying a fun night of entertainment, singing carols by candlelight and rejoicing in the Message of Christmas.