Bundaberg Christmases past were similar to today in many respects with busy traffic and last-minute gift shopping a theme through the ages.
The main differences were that in early years, large community gatherings were held on Boxing Day and nearly everyone went to church for Christmas.
In 1872, a reporter for the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser wrote that Christmas “passed in a very enjoyable manner, the only drawback being the intense heat which prevailed”.
“Last year, I believe, there was any amount of dissipation and drunkenness. This year, I am happy to say that the people, on the whole, behaved themselves in a truly rational manner. The hotels were neatly decorated, and evergreens and bunting were conspicuous in every part of the town. Christmas Day, with its inevitable plum duff, having been got over, the sports occupied everybody's attention.”
The sports were a rowing regatta on the Burnett River, with a large crowd attending.
In 1906, traders complained about the cancellation of the Mount Perry train and a holiday being declared for public servants on Christmas Eve.
“The Mayor (Ald M Duffy) protested vigorously to the Home Secretary but without effect.”
Despite those setbacks, business operators said it was the busiest December ever experienced.
Menace and liability of vehicles
Christmas 1918 was celebrated joyously after victory in the First World War. There was a large influx of visitors and the businesses were gaily decorated.
“It would not be out of place to draw the traffic authorities' attention to the menace and liability of serious accident owing to the large vehicular traffic running up and down among the crowds in such times. Such could be easily diverted to the two parallel streets adjacent without inconvenience to the proprietors of the vehicles.”
By this time, Christmas race meetings were popular and in 1918 a boxing match also drew a big attendance.
The Brisbane Courier in 1926 reported the seaside resorts were thronged with holiday makers and a Christmas Day concert was performed at the hospital for the benefit of patients.
Upwards of 1200 people attended Mass at the Church of the Holy Rosary.
Christmas passed quietly in 1928, with all churches filled and the hospitals tastefully decorated.
In the 1940s and 1950s during Bundaberg Christmases past, a cycling and athletics carnival was popular while the birth of the Lucke quads from Gooburrum made national headlines for several years.
The beach has always been a magnet for Bundaberg Region residents at Christmas and many people took up holiday shacks in the 60s and 70s.
Fast forward to 2019, and the streets were still busy with shoppers despite competition from online retailers.
Instead of complaining about a public holiday on Christmas Eve like his 1906 predecessor, Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey was among the crowds picking up last-minute gifts from local stores.
“By supporting local traders we support local jobs and the local economy,” he said.