Merry Christmas – The story of when St Nicholas got the Freedom of Maroochy Shire

As we count down to the festive season, memories from the past come back to many of us at this special time of the year.

These recollections might include a family gathering, trying not to fall asleep so you can actually see Santa, or waking up very early on Christmas morning and being told to go back to bed.

All along the Sunshine Coast we celebrate in our own way on this special day.

The old churches of the region hold many memories of special Christmas events and so too do our newer churches which provide more places for the faithful to worship and give thanks on Christmas Day.

Of course for Christmas 2018 no longer with us are the robust pioneers who at times lived lonely lives in this district, especially the women and children.

Men often went away to work as timber getters in the deep forests or left home to fight in wars far from Australia.

Some tramped from town to town looking for work in the Great Depression.

Times were tough back then and even today Santa may not be able to deliver the wished for toy or gift due to financial hardship.

It is at this time of year that friendship and kindness is the most important thing for all of us to share.

In December 1957, Nambour hosted a special festival known as the St Nicholas Festival. Sponsored by local business, it was also supported by the local Dutch community with many of them recent arrivals in Australia to start a new life.

Today many of these families still reside in this district.

Memories of Santa on horseback might still be remembered today in the community as this special event continued to be staged in Nambour for several years.

A reception with a big welcome for St Nicholas (Santa) saw the little children so excited to watch this jolly white bearded man in a red suit get off the train in Nambour.

Santa actually arrived with his attendants on a huffing and puffing steam train at 8.45am sharp.

As the train rounded the bend on the way into Nambour, the steam whistle sounded announcing his arrival.

Everyone loved Santa and couldn’t wait to see him up close.

Here was this special visitor, so far from his snowy home at the North Pole, coming to Nambour. He was probably feeling the heat here in the middle of summer.

There were crowds of children waiting in Station Square for a glimpse of this North Pole tourist who had left his sleigh and reindeers to rest in a stable near Brisbane. They still had a lot of work to do after leaving this district.

Maroochy Shire chairman Cr David Low presented Santa with the Freedom of the Shire in 1957.

The spectacularly robed St Nicholas, in his red suit, greeted the children who formed a guard of honour for him.

There was a horse waiting for him to ride to the school grounds leading a procession of hundreds of children.

Christmas carols were sung by the children of St Joseph’s Catholic School. Away in a Manger and Silent Night were very popular and known by most of those attending, including all denominations who joined in.

All the people of the area were welcome whether you attended church or not.

Gift bags were distributed, with one for every child.

At 11.30am St Nicholas arrived at the Nambour Hospital to visit the sick children and to give them their gift bags too.

Bill Robinson from Robinson Studios was the chairman of the St Nicholas Festival Committee and due to great public support, no child was left out on the day when Maroochy Shire gave St Nicholas ‘Santa’ the Freedom of the Shire.

This is a special true story from the past to remind us all of the spirit of Christmas.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from the Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library team.

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