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One million ways the city will shine this Christmas

Beatrice Smith

Many of us relish the time of year when a simple drive through the neighbourhood can become a glittering wonderland with the addition of Christmas lights.

While Australia doesn’t traditionally get into the spirit as much as our Northern hemisphere counterparts, many Canberrans embrace the trimmings of the season. None more so than SIDS and Kids ACTwhose lighting installations will  astonish Canberrans and raise money for children in need in the city for the second year in a row.

The partnership between the organisation and Christmas lights goes back to the Richards family of Forrest whose lights broke GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ when they were switched on in 2011. The Richards’ front yard quickly became a must-see destination that Christmas, with proceeds from the gold coin entry being donated to SIDS and Kids ACT.

This year, the city is hosting the biggest light tunnel yet, and according to Lisa Ridgley, CEO of SIDS and Kids ACT, it’s going to attempt to break world records again, all in the name of charity.

“This year’s design includes the construction of one 70-metre tunnel of lights electronically programmed to music, together with a 22-metre Christmas tree featuring its own integrated light show,” says Lisa.

“Inside the tunnel, visitors will journey through an interactive display filled with LED 3D motifs individually themed to the 12 Days of Christmas. The iconic Canberra Carousel will be adorned in lights similar to the 2014 display, but this year, the Carousel will also be electronically programmed to music. We are also building Canberra’ first-ever frozen castle located at the end of the tunnel to sell drinks!”

The lights from 2014

If this doesn’t blow your mind, just wait until you see the tree.

“The return of the Canberra Christmas Tree is such a beautiful story not only because it is an official world record attempt but because so many volunteers in our community have been part of its refurbishment,” explains Lisa.

“We purchased 1km of tree fur and around 50 volunteers painstakingly wrapped new fur around every branch. There are 220 odd branches on the tree – it is massive.”

“We have everything crossed that we will smash the record for most lights on an artificial Christmas tree.”

Our hopes are high that Lisa and the team achieve their goal, especially considering the statistics surrounding the installation of the lights.

“[There are] more than a million lights in the display, 105,000 cable ties have been used, it took around 201 hours to construct the tunnel and install the tree, and there are 600 iceblocks in the frozen castle at the end of the tunnel!” says Lisa.

This Friday 27 November is the SIDS and Kids ACT Christmas Lights in the City grand opening, including an official attempt to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™  title for the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree. But there’s a lot more on the menu for Friday than just the flicking of a switch, according to Jane Easthope, CEO of Canberra CBD Limited.


“We are thrilled to be a part of the SIDS and Kids ACT Christmas Lights display again in 2015. This magical display will provide a stunning backdrop to the month-long festivities of Christmas in the City – Canberra Celebrates!”

“The highly anticipated opening weekend will kick off the festivities with the Christmas Night Markets, Taste Canberra, Children’s Activity Hub and the Community Concert on Saturday night in front of the Christmas tree.”

Friday marks the beginning of the month long event which runs until 31 December. There will be a family Christmas concert, beginning at 7pm just near the Canberra Times Fountain outside the Canberra Centre with a star-studded line-up including The Voice 2015 contestant Amber Nichols, New-Zealand-Australian actor and Play School presenter Jay Laga’aia, the Grinch Live Show and Santa. The Christmas Night Markets and Taste Canberra also open on Friday.

The lights in the city in 2014

The lights in the city in 2014

The Chief Minister Andrew Barr will officially switch on the Canberra Christmas tree at approximately 8:50pm in an attempt to break the world record for the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree.

“Universal Studios in Japan hold the current record,” explains Lisa. “But last week we got word that they have already assembled their tree and broken their own record for the fifth time! So the Guinness World Records title is set at 374,280 lights on an artificial Christmas tree. We’ll find out this Friday if we have in fact beaten that.”

In response to feedback from last year’s displays, Lisa says there’s been some changes to the event.

“We’ve made the display more interactive this year. The experience inside the tunnel will be very different,” says Lisa. “Rather than stepping into a big wide open space visitors will wander through the tunnel which this year will be filled with LED 3D motifs individually themed to the 12 Days of Christmas!”


sids and kids christmas lights“It will be sensational. The exterior of the tunnel will also look very different. It was so industrial last year. This year the perimeter fencing will be removed and the tunnel will look like a gift.”

As well as the tunnel, performances on the opening night and the tree, there will be another special, memorable element to the installation this year – a memorial wall.

“The memorial wall is the exterior of the tunnel which will be dedicated this year to bereaved families, friends and relatives in memory of little lives lost. Anyone can come past and purchase a ribbon for a gold coin and pin it to the wall,” says Lisa.

“Christmas is one of the hardest times for bereaved families – taking a moment to reflect and pin a ribbon to the wall will be a really special moment for so many people.”

Lisa says that the lights are both a beautiful and incredibly important part of SIDS and Kids ACT.

“It is a wonderful way to raise money to ensure we can continue to offer quality education services and bereavement support to families in Canberra and the surrounding region,” she says.

“It is also a wonderful way to let people know exactly what we do. A lot of people don’t realise we offer counselling services free of charge to anyone who is affected by the death of a little one, from conception onwards regardless of the cause.”

the essentials

What: The launch of Christmas in the City – Canberra Celebrates!
When: Friday 27 November at 7pm but be sure to arrive early to get a good spot for the concert!
Where: Near the Canberra Times Fountain outside Canberra Centre
How much: Free but donations to SIDS and Kids ACT encouraged
More information: Here and here.


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author