28 June 2023

Christmas in July Festival to return bigger, better (and with a lot more chocolate)

| Travis Radford
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The Christmas in July Festival will bring a French-European white Winter Christmas to Canberra from Thursday, 29 June, to Sunday, 2 July. Photo: Xmas in July Festival.

The magic of a French-European white Winter Christmas comes to Canberra for the second year running (this time with a dedicated chocolate village).

Over four days, from Thursday, 29 June, to Sunday, 2 July, the Christmas in July Festival will transform the Parkes Place Lawns into a wintry Christmas wonderland.

Think twinkling fairy lights, falling snow (and one giant snowflake), Christmas trees, giant nutcrackers, authentic wood chalets and live entertainment – all with free entry.

Festival director and French-Australian Vincent Hernandez says there’s no better place in Australia for the festival, and not just because Canberra is really, really, really cold right now.

“I think it’s very special to be able to bring some of your culture and share it with a country that is not yours,” he says.

“Canberra is so multicultural. You have all the embassies and all that culture here. I think if there’s one spot in Australia where people can really appreciate not only the culture but the fact that it’s a Winter experience of Christmas, like the way we do it in Europe, the way we love it, then it’s Canberra.”

The festival will open from 4 pm on Thursday, but Queanbeyan-based dance and cabaret group Kix Arts Productions will cut the ribbon on four days of festive fun with their free cabaret performance from 6 pm.

This year’s festival-goers – expected to be 60,000 to 80,000 – can expect lots of live entertainment with 18 shows, including eight live concerts by local bands, orchestras, DJs and more.

Vincent says there’ll also be more exhibitors than last year, with pop-ups serving winter-warming European cuisine, including crêpes, Fondue Savoyarde in a cob, German hot dogs, Italian pasta in a cheese wheel, Belgian waffles and crème brûlée. Plus, distilleries will serve beer, wine, cocktails and spirits, artisan stalls with lifestyle products and, according to Vincent, “a very exciting, brand new space dedicated to chocolate”.

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Vincent says despite the focus on European food and culture, many of the exhibitors at the festival will feature familiar faces from the Canberra region.

“The spirit behind the French art de vivre is about putting forward local artisans and people like the chocolate makers,” he explains.

“Instead of mass production, it’s all about the locally made, locally sourced. That’s very important in our culture.

“It’s all about bringing these people that are creating those amazing products and putting them under the spotlight.”

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For those with a little extra cash to splash, the Raclette Igloo Melted Cheese Experience is also returning, offering Canberrans the chance to partake in the French winter tradition of melting Raclette cheese.

Or if you want to escape the crowds and cosy up around a fire pit without any extra frills, there’s a paid VIP fire pit garden with a glass of mulled wine and all-you-can-eat marshmallows included.

“Last year the festival was fantastic and we had so much feedback from customers on socials and everywhere saying how much they loved the event,” Vincent says.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the opening night on Thursday night. Hopefully, we have great weather [and] lots of people in there having a great time.”

To find out more or buy tickets to the paid activities, visit Christmas in July Festival.

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