No audience allowed at Sydney’s Christmas Carols
COVID-19 has claimed Sydney's Christmas Carols.
The pinnacle Christmas event in Sydney has been scrapped for public audiences and around 2000 tickets refunded after Channel 7 opted to close off access following the northern beaches coronavirus outbreak.
Held across two concerts - Friday and Saturday - and broadcast on December 23, the famed annual event will now go ahead audience-free for the first time in history and would-be concertgoers will see the costs of their tickets returned to their bank accounts in coming days.
"It is with great sadness and with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to close off access to the public for the performance of Woolworths Carols in The Domain at the Aware Super Theatre on December 18 and 19," a statement read.
"The show will go ahead and will be broadcast on Channel 7 and Seven Plus on Wednesday, December 23, from 7.30pm for everyone's enjoyment.
"This decision has been made in light of the recent escalation of Covid 19 cases in the greater Sydney area.
"While we understand this will be very frustrating for many members of the public we felt this was the right decision to make in the interest of public health and safety."
The pandemic will force people to find creative new ways to celebrate Christmas this year, so the Saturday Telegraph has put together this comprehensive guide to answer all of your festive COVID questions and concerns - from restrictions that impact your Christmas lunch plans to carol locations and transport recommendations.
HOSTING RULES FOR CHRISTMAS AT HOME
There is only a week to go until Christmas and while there is cheer in the air, for many there is also mounting stress about putting on the family lunch or dinner.
Luckily, there is one less thing to worry about with restrictions easing, which will give you plenty of room to cook up a meal for three or 33 people.
In NSW, up to 50 people can visit a residence as long as an outdoor space is being used, however, it's recommended no more than 30 people gather if the residence has no outdoor area.
The government has also agreed to lift the limit on outdoor gatherings to 100 people, in time for Christmas celebrations.
Caps on patron numbers at hospitality venues, weddings and funerals are scrapped, and standing in outdoor hospitality venues will be permitted. This means you can comfortably dine out this Christmas without having to cut anyone from the invite list.
Choirs of up to 50 people will be permitted to perform indoors, with indoor stadiums and theatres can operate at 75 per cent capacity.
There is also now no limit on how many people can visit a resident in an aged care home. You can read more about the aged care restrictions here.
Western Australia has slammed the border shut to NSW residents, and Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania will force all travellers from the northern beaches area into mandatory 14-day quarantine following Thursday's news that Sydney's coronavirus cluster had ballooned to 17 confirmed cases. Read the latest updates here.
WHERE TO FIND THE BEST CHRISTMAS LIGHT DISPLAYS
Go on an adventure to find the brightest Christmas lights in Sydney.
There will be plenty of lights to twinkle your eye, from the city centre decorated with extravagant trees to the quiet suburbs with magnificent houses decorated, you will be sure to find something to glow your night.
St Mary's Cathedral
The soaring 75-metre facade of St Mary's Cathedral is undoubtedly one of Sydney's best spots for the Christmas light displays in the city. The Lights of Christmas will once again take over the cathedral with a show of music, dancing lights and projections. The cathedral will be shining with vivid Christmas projections, with the display running from December 10 - 25, between 8.30-11pm each night. This year the site will be fenced, with entry via William Street and electronic registration required. Find out more here.
QVB x Swarovski Christmas tree
Experience the Southern Hemisphere's largest indoor Christmas tree, standing at 24 metres tall over three floors, and rests under the QVB dome. This sparkling marvel is decorated with more than 100,000 crystal ornaments and 65,000 twinkling lights. The crystals were flown in specially from Austria, which took a team of 100 people over 10,000 hours to assemble.
Darling Harbour is brimming with dazzling installations this festive season. Have a ball with the 6-metre high giant bauble popping up in the ICC forecourt, as it lights up the surroundings with kaleidoscopic colours. There will also be plenty of selfie opportunities inside and out, and for a swinging good time the interactive swinging bells at Darling Square have in-built swings for the kids (and big kids). You can also wander over to the Harbourside Forecourt, where you will be rewarded with a big gift (or several), with six-foot-tall gigantic Christmas presents shimmering in silver and fluorescent purple.
Cumberland Rd, Greytsanes
There are a number of well-decorated houses along Cumberland Road in Greystanes between Whalans Road and Vernon Street.
Royal Albert Dock Light Walk, Liverpool
Embark on a magical Light Walk of the stunning Grade 1 listed buildings, the perfect family-friendly activity to brighten up winter nights on the run up to Christmas.
With evening strolls a popular pastime for many during current COVID restrictions, the dock's stunning light installations take place across the whole estate with nearly 3 million lights. You can find more information on the walk here.
Arthur Whiting Park, Castle Hill
Head to Castle Hill to discover the Illuminate the Hills at Christmas installation, where you can wander through a light-filled spiral Christmas tree forest with swirly candy cane shrubs, before reaching the massive multi-coloured 'Joy Tree' surrounded by larger-than-life playful polar bears. There are marshals in attendance to maintain physical distancing and QR codes to check-in at four entrances. You can see the displays every night until January 5. If you can't make it in person, you can check it out online here.
Martin Place Christmas tree
You'll find the largest Christmas tree in New South Wales lighting up the civic heart of Sydney in Martin Place. This whopper 800-branch tree is decorated with 110,000 LED lights, dressed with 15,000 buds representing nine different kinds of native Australian flowers, 330 glossy baubles, and topped with a 3.4-metre colour-changing star. You can see the tree burst into a kaleidoscope of colour every 15 minutes between 7pm and midnight until Christmas Eve. While you're in the area, wander over to see the canopy of light on Pitt Street.
CHECK OUT THESE CHRISTMAS MARKETS
Get into the Christmas spirit with festive eats, drinks and one-of-a-kind gifts. Here are the best Christmas markets to hit in Sydney.
The Rocks Christmas markets, Rocks
If you're not feeling the Christmas spirit, it's time to head to The Rocks Christmas Market for a fairy-lit festive night that will give you all the warm and fuzzier. While you're in the neighbourhood, you can discover a festive hidden laneway filled with twinkling snowflakes and rows of Christmas trees.
WHERE: George Street, Playfair Street and Jack Mundey Place
WHEN: The Rocks Christmas Market Dec 4 to Dec 24 - 10am - 8pm, Fri to Sat and 10am - 5pm, Sun
And a special Christmas Eve Market from 11am - 6pm at Playfair Street and Jack Mundey Place
36-Hour Seafood Marathon, Pyrmont
It's just not Christmas unless the iconic Sydney seafood sale that draws tens of thousands of people at all hours of the day - and night.
But trading at Sydney Fish Market's 36-hour seafood marathon will look a little different this year, thanks to strict COVID measures that have been put in place here.
WHERE: Sydney Fish Market Pyrmont
WHEN: Doors will open from 5am Wednesday 23rd December, until 5pm Christmas Eve
Eastern European Christmas Market, Ashfield
If you're keen for a sweet indulgence, then the one-day-only Polish Christmas food market is for you. Filled with delicious Eastern European treats, you can find pączki (traditional stuffed doughnuts), sernik (Polish cheesecake), piernik (gingerbread cake), makowiec (a pastry-wrapped poppy seed roll), pierogi (sweet and savoury pan-fried dumplings) and other delicious morsels.
WHEN: The market is open on December 20
Carriageworks Christmas Twilight Market, Eveleigh
If you're in the market for a special Christmas lunch, then there is no fresher place to gather than the Carriageworks Twilight Christmas market.
There are more than 70 growers, farmers and artisanal producers selling the best of the season for your festive feasts and holiday treats.
WHEN: The popular weekend farmers market gets fully festive with the return of the annual Twilight Christmas Market on Wednesday, December 23 from 4-8pm.
Crackin' Christmas Markets, Darling Harbour
The Darling Quarter will host Christmas markets that encapsulate the spirit of the season. Encouraging people to purchase presents with a purpose, there will be a number of stalls on display including Amber Drop, a local honey producer.
WHERE: Darling Harbour
WHEN: The markets are on Dec 18-20. Hours are Fri 4-8pm and Sat, Sun 11am-6pm.
December Sydney Vegan Market
The final Sydney Vegan Market for the year falls just in time to get you stocked up on cruelty-free goodies for the festive season. The market brings together more than 100 stalls selling 100 per cent plant-based food and drink, homewares, fashion, art and cosmetics.
WHERE: Moore Park
WHEN: Sunday, December 20
WHERE TO EAT CHRISTMAS TREATS WITH A TWIST
From Christmas flavoured lamingtons to a unique Christmas gelato log cake, here are some special treats to enjoy, or gift to someone else, over the festive season. Take a tour of Sydney's best eateries here.
Feeling lazy? These fast food places are open on Christmas Day
McDonalds: Open 24 hours
KFC: Stores open from 10am until 11pm. You can find your store opening hours here.
Oporto: Every day leading up to Christmas, Oporto will be giving away gifts to customers, from premium music subscription to online yoga classes. Every time you dig into your flame-grilled faves, you receive a gift. You can also order your favourite meals online for delivery or pick up. Store opening hours vary. You can find your store here.
Subway: If you're after something fresh, Subway has you covered. There's also a catering option available, perfect for hosting a Christmas lunch. You can find your store opening hours here.
WEATHER FORECASTS FOR THE FESTIVE PERIOD
Sydneysiders will have to battle through eight days of showers and a possible storm before the clouds part, but it will be worth it when the sun comes out on Christmas Day.
For those spending Christmas in Sydney, the city is forecast to enjoy a slightly cloudy day with a maximum of 25C.
Read the full forecast for your Christmas holidays here.
Buses will run on reduced or special timetables from December 24 to January 1. Things to note: On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, buses will run on the Sunday timetable. On December 31, most buses will run on a changed weekday timetable. On New Year's Day, most buses will run on the Sunday timetable.
CHRISTMAS TREES IN SHORTAGE
There is nothing like a big, bright Christmas tree to transform an ordinary living room into a festive enclave.
But Christmas tree farmers say stock is just days away from running out completely.
It's a first - a combination of the long drought, and pandemic travel restrictions - meaning lots more people are home wanting a tree.
Where to buy last-minute trees (fake and fresh)
Dural Christmas tree Farm: There are only limited tree sizes available for trees. There are plenty of artificial trees in stock. The showroom is available every day until December 22, from 9am until 6pm. Outside hours can be made by appointment.
Merlino's Christmas trees: Limited stocks available. Contact the warehouse before visiting. 260 Great North Road Wareemba
Flowers on Lyons Drummoyne: Fresh cut Christmas trees up to 10ft are available every day until Christmas
Carriageworks Farmers Market: Open on Saturday, December 19
SHOPPING CENTRE HOURS FOR YOUR LAST-MINUTE BUYS
Wednesday, December 23: Midnight Trade (store hours may differ)
Thursday, December 24 (store hours may differ)
8:00am - 6:00pm
Christmas Day, December 25 (store hours may differ)
Boxing Day, December 26 (store hours may differ)
Originally published as No audience allowed at Sydney's Christmas Carols