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Myer Melbourne Christmas Windows - an annual tradition for 65 years

One of my earliest Christmas memories is my mother taking me on the tram into the city in Melbourne to view the wonder of Myer's Christmas windows. Like so many young Melbournians it quickly became one of the highlights of the Christmas season and something not to be missed - along with having your photo taken with Santa up on the 6th floor of the vast building.

Above: Three of Myer Melbourne's 2020 Christmas Windows with the theme of Melbourne itself. The first window has a model of the iconic department store in the background.


It was the biggest department store in the southern hemisphere and when I was growing up if you couldn't buy it at Myer's then it wasn't worth buying. But did Sidney Baevski Myer, the penniless Russian with very little English who emigrated to Australia in 1899 and initially sold his goods door-to-door, ever dream his Emporium's wonderful Christmas window displays would become such an important cultural event in the city for generations to come?

As an aside, Sidney Myers' story is an amazing one in its own right and I found multiple records for him at Findmypast, including his complex Last Will and Testament (see extract below). 
Image of Sidney Myer's last will and testament. Courtesy of Findmypast.com.au.
Above:  The beginning of Sidney Baeviski Myer's last will and testament which includes specific instructions about the huge company he built.  Courtesy of Findmypast.

The magical window displays were the dream child of Myer's window dresser, Freddie Asmussen. Freddie convinced Myers' management to run with his vision of Santa and the Olympics with minimal merchandising. (It was a nod to the Olympics which were held in Melbourne that year.) It was an almost revolutionary concept given Christmas was the busiest season of the year for merchandise sales and Myer's vast glass window displays were an important part of their visual marketing to attract customers.


Every year was a different theme from The Nutcracker to Aladdin to the 12 Days of Christmas to Chinese FairyTales to Alice in Wonderland to Peter Pan to Cinderalla . . . the list goes on and on. But one thing was and continues to be guaranteed - the delight of children who visit the window displays every year between about mid-November and Christmas Eve. The displays weren't static and most years involved many moving parts to keep visitors - old and young alike - entranced.


Above: One of the 1957 windows when The Nutcracker was that year's theme.


I remember my mother planning the timing of our visit. So popular were the displays that the crowds were often 6, 7 and even 8 people deep at times outside each of the half dozen or so massive windows along Myer's Bourke Street frontage. (The old saying "Busier than Bourke Street" comes to mind here.)


It's no fun for young children having to contend with trying to see the beautifully displayed windows among so many (much taller) people. So our visit was usually early in the day or late afternoon after Mum had finished work. My idea of Christmas holidays bliss was Mum not having to work and our venturing into town to see Myer's windows, having my photo taken with Santa, then going to a movie followed by lunch at Coles cafeteria. It was such a treat.


Something I learned today while researching this blog post was that in 1994 the design team created Santa's elves and made them in the likeness of several Myer executives. Such is the attention to detail that goes into the annual design and creation of this wonderful and much loved event.


Above: One of 1994's windows when some of Santa's helpers were made to look like some Myer's executives! LOL.


Myer's Christmas windows have become so important to the city, that the Melbourne Museum even held a special exhibition in 2018 celebrating the history and magic of the displays over more than six decades.


Christmas and other holiday traditions are important and long may Myer's special window displays continue delighting people for at least another 65 years.


For a trip down memory lane, click here to view the full list of Myer Melbourne's Christmas window themes from 1956 to 2020. How many do you remember?

Above : One of Your Family Genealogist's visits to Myer's in Melbourne for the annual photo with Santa circa 1966.

Did you ever visit Myer Melbourne's Christmas windows? Or perhaps you have other traditions you love to celebrate at this time of the year? If so, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section at the bottom of the screen.


2020 has been a difficult year for so many people. Bring on 2021 which I hope will bring you and your family everything you could wish for.


Take care, stay healthy, and above all, keep up with your family history research among all the seasonal celebrations.


PS: Don't forget, readers of my blog receive a special 20% discount on Findmypast.com.au's annual PRO subscription. Just quote FOFMPTL21 after selecting the the PRO option and before checking out. It will make a great Christmas or other gift either to yourself (go on you deserve it!) or for a fellow genealogist.


Therese

Your Family Genealogist


Pictures : Courtesy of Myer; From the author's own collection

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