A Sub-Tropical Winter Wonderland
We may not have snowmen or chestnuts roasting over an open fire in Brisbane, Australia, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well. This week my Aussie friend Elizabeth introduced me to a recent Brisbane tradition: The Brisbane City Council’s Bus Tour of the 4KQ Christmas Lights Competition.
4KQ is a local radio station, and for the past 26 years they’ve held a city-wide Christmas light competition with winners chosen from North, South, East and West Brisbane. For the past four years the Brisbane City Council has joined the fun by providing city buses for tours for the final week before Christmas. Monday through Friday in that week, anyone can purchase a $22 ticket for the 3-hour tour and be taken around to some of the best sites in the competition.
We took the Brisbane West Tour and boarded a city bus decked out with streamers, lights, Santas and even a Christmas tree! Our hosts – Kevin and Ray – were the jolliest couple imaginable. Wearing jaunty Santa hats with flashing lights, they welcomed us with a cheery smiles, teasing, and a traditional Australian lolly, chocolate-covered caramels called Fantales.
We joined 33 other Christmas-light lovers on our bus and were soon underway, casting wary glances at skies that looked suspiciously heavy with rain.
The first drops fell as we found seats on the lawn of the first house, but the rain was so warm that we didn’t mind a bit. It was an impressive first display as nature and man joined forces in a combination of dazzling lights accompanied by music with lightning dancing in the skies above.
As the last notes of music faded, we clambered aboard our bus and headed off for the rest of the tour. Bolstered by another gift of Fantales, we were roped into a friendly bus-wide competition. As we careened through the narrow streets of West Brisbane any time the left side of the bus saw Christmas lights they were to shout, “Christmas Lights Left!” The right side of the bus shouted “Christmas Lights Right!” whenever we spotted some. The winners were rewarded with more Fantales.
In true Aussie fashion the shouts were soon shortened to “Lights Left! Lights Right!” or, to my Canadian ears, “Lights Lift! Lights Roit!” And before long both sides were lying through their teeth, spotting Christmasy illumination where there wasn’t a speck of light. It’s amazing what folks will do for a free Fantale.
Soon the skies opened and our tour turned very soggy indeed.
The warm summer rain was actually quite refreshing after a hot, muggy day in Brisbane, and it didn’t stop me from wandering through fabulously lit neighborhoods or popping out into the downpour for a quick photo.
Our evening ended at the home of the winner of the competition. They devote six weeks to decorating their home every year, and their hard work has paid off for they’ve never been defeated.
In spite of bucketing rain, lightning and the late hour, my friends and I agreed that it was a marvelous Christmas tradition, and one we hope to repeat annually for many years to come.
If you go:
When: Monday-Friday the last week before Christmas at 6:45 p.m.
Details: All Christmas light tours last approximately three hours, with one restroom stop.
Cost: Tickets are $22 per adult and $11 per child, full time student, or concession. A family ticket is $50.
Tickets available: http://premier.ticketek.com.