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Journal sydney

Every year from June to August, thousands of people flock to the Blue Mountains for Christmas festivities - roaring fires, roast dinners, sing-alongs and the occasional snowfall.

In the Blue Mountains you don't have to wait until December for Christmas cheer.  Every year from June to August, thousands of people flock here for Yulefest - roaring fires, roast dinners, sing-alongs and the occasional snowfall. Enjoy a sumptuous Christmas feast at the grand old Katoomba guesthouse where Yulefest began. Sing carols around the piano in Leura, meet Santa in front of a roaring fire in Mount Victoria or have a romantic candlelit dinner in Blackheath.

It all started in 1980, when a group of Irish guests saw snowflakes and got nostalgic about a cold Christmas with all the trimmings.  Their one-off dinner spawned a winter tradition that has been warmly embraced by guesthouses, hotels, resorts and restaurants across the region.

Sit down to five-course feasts, complete with stuffed turkey and ham, cranberry sauce, mince pies, mulled wine and steaming plum pudding.  Then put on your party hat and embrace the silly season entertainment. Play detective at a murder mystery evening and cheer for a comedic revue in Katoomba. Or enjoy the chaos served up by a Leura Faulty Towers crew.  In Mount Victoria you can challenge Santa to karaoke or raise your glass at a courtly Victorian-era banquet. At the foot of the mountains you can swap Christmas cracker gags as you ho-ho-ho down the Nepean River on a historic paddlesteamer.

During June, Blue Mountains locals join the celebration with the annual Winter Magic Festival.  On the Saturday closest to the Winter Solstice, Katoomba's streets come alive with a vibrant parade of jugglers, gymnasts, musicians, dancers, choirs, troubadours, buskers, storytellers and poets. There are also markets and unique Blue Mountains experiences, including a Christmas feast aboard the puffing Zig Zag Railway.

The great thing about the Blue Mountains is that it's easy to work off your Yulefest indulgence. Walks of all lengths wind you through this frost-festooned, World Heritage-listed scenery.  See sandstone cliffs dropping to blue-hazed forests, and gentle streams turning to thundering waterfalls in the deeper gorges. Pay homage to the Three Sisters - a trio of rocky pinnacles named after an Aboriginal legend - from Katoomba. Then visit Wentworth Falls, a picturesque waterfall on the edge of the Jamison Valley. Explore the underground rivers and chambers of Jenolan Caves and stand on the top of Hanging Rock to hear your voice echo through the forested valley below.  You can even spend a day or three on the Six Foot Track, the original 1884 horse track stretching from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves.

Stay in Katoomba, home to magical mountain views and clusters of cosy cafes, antique stores and second-hand bookshops. Find accommodation in elegant, garden-lined Leura or in the scenic bush surroundings of the Megalong Valley.  Spend a few nights in historic Wentworth Falls or in Blackheath, the mountain's highest town.

With the tinsel and turkey, crisp days and storybook scenery, it's easy to see why in the Blue Mountains, Christmas comes early.