On the first day of Christmas - one shining Byron lighthouse

SPELL IT OUT: Merry Christmas from the Byron Bay lighthouse with Finn Campbell, 7, and ghost writer Bob Smeuninx.
SPELL IT OUT: Merry Christmas from the Byron Bay lighthouse with Finn Campbell, 7, and ghost writer Bob Smeuninx. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

The Cape Byron Lighthouse was built in 1901, as the sign above its front door says, of pre-fabricated concrete blocks.

The lighthouse is these days one of the region's big tourist attractions, but even a century ago it was considered a plum posting for lighthouse keepers. Unlike many lighthouses, the one at Cape Byron was built on the mainland and relatively close to town, making it possible for the lighthouse keeper's children to go to school with the other Byron kids and leaving the family less reliant on the perilous delivery of supplies by boat.

The lighthouse's elevation meant it (and the people caring for it) was less exposed to the ocean than many others. It also means the lighthouse is a smaller building than many others, which would have to have been a blessing when tromping up and down its stairs.

You can find out more about the lighthouse here, or, better yet, go on one of the regular tours being held every day (except Christmas day) at the lighthouse over the school holidays. The tours run every 20 minutes between 10am and 3pm and give you a chance to see the facility for yourself while one of the lighthouse volunteers offers information about the history of the building. The tour finishes at the top of the lighthouse where you get to enjoy the best view across the bay available outside of a helicopter.

For more information about the tour, phone the lighthouse on (02) 6620 9300.

The other Northern Rivers Days of Christmas so far

Thanks to everyone who entered our competition to win an $800 Specsavers voucher for frames or prescription sunglasses.

The winner of the competition is Casino's Dee Hartin, who followers of our Faceboook page might be familiar with. Dee's a gifted amateur photographer and frequently shares some of her exceptional images on the page.

As it turns out, Dee's also got a bit of an ear for poetry and the funny side of Christmas.

Here is her version of the 12 days:

Twelve Shoppers shopping

Eleven Wrappers wrapping

Ten Parents sighing

Nine Reindeer flying

Eight Bells are ringing

Seven Lanterns swinging

Six Kids are Peeking ... and now


Four Kids in trouble

Three Drinks on the double

Two Laybys for a fee

And a Gift made from an Aussie treeeeeeeeeee.


Mireille Merlet-Shaw

WE all adore our gorgeous koalas, but the volunteers from Friends of the Koala probably love these Aussie creatures more than most people.

It is a non-profit community group dedicated to conserving koalas on the Northern Rivers.

The volunteers operate a 24-hour rescue service for sick, injured and orphaned koalas, and they also run the Koala Care Centre on Rifle Range Road in Lismore.  

A native plant nursery attached to the centre provides free koala food trees to local landholders.  

Friends of the Koala also plays an active role in promoting habitat restoration, encouraging property owners to commit to new plantings and maintaining and looking after remnant vegetation.

If you see a sick or injured koala, phone 6622 1233.  

Doug Eaton

THESE three surfers (from left) Shannon Mackie, Zac Wightman and Kye Somerville, have reason to smile?

With some of the best surf beaches in Australia at their doorstop, plenty of sunshine and lots of time off over Christmas, what more could you wish for?

Shannon, Zac and Kye are pictured on Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head.

Patrick Gorbunovs

USING knitting as a "tool for non-violent form of political activism", the Knitting Nannas Against Gas are now regulars at anti-coal seam gas protests throughout the region.

One of their favourite haunts is the office of Lismore MP Thomas George.

The ladies said their knitting skills were "less important than the act of bearing witness while we knit".

"We usually knit in yellow and black to identify with Lock the Gate triangles that are mounted at the entrance to many properties," the nannas' website explains.

"Our knitting choices range between functional items for sale, such as beanies, tea cosies and toys, to more symbolic objects."

They also knit triangles that echo the Lock the Gate signs, as well as long lengths of knitting "which are thrown across gates and roads in imminent danger of invasion by drill rigs".

Lismore Lantern Parade co-founder and director Jyllie Jackson at the LightnUp lantern workshop.
Lismore Lantern Parade co-founder and director Jyllie Jackson at the LightnUp lantern workshop. Patrick Gorbunovs

Five Lovely Lanterns

DECEMBER 19: THE Lantern Parade has really helped put Lismore on the map nationally.

Held during the winter solstice each year, the parade draws thousands of people to the streets of the city.

The lantern making workshop turns out works of art and the skills of the artisans are renowned locally and overseas.

And the lantern themselves seem to pop up everywhere. Anyone who has been to Bluesfest at Easter would rate the nightly lantern display as a festival highlight.

Some of the lanterns are huge including Pegasus the famed winged horse.

But schools also get to make lanterns and participate in the annual parade.

Cathy Adams

Six skaters skating

DECEMBER 18: ROLLER derby is a high-intensity contact sport with plenty of thrills and spills, and it seems we just can't get enough of it.

The Northern Rivers Roller Derby held plenty of "fresh meat" sign-ons throughout 2013.

It's a sport that continues to grow in popularity with women across the region.

But it's not all fun and games for the tough ladies in pink and black.

They take their sport seriously, and the local derby league is now feared and respected.

Pictured is the club's Kimmando Karnage (Kim McIntosh), showing off some impressive moves.

Seven Savvy Students from Empire Vale Public School.
Seven Savvy Students from Empire Vale Public School.

Seven Savvy Students

DECEMBER 17: THE clever senior students at Empire Vale Public School recently won the 2013 Best Newspaper Award at The Northern Star's Newspapers in Education Ceremony.

The combined Year 4, 5 and 6 class named their newspaper Empire Vale Unveiled, and discussed story ideas in a real newsroom environment.

The school's NiE champion, Karen Rantissi, sent in this photo of the "seven savvy students", saying they thought it would be fun to participate in The Northern Star's unique version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Empire Vale Public School - which has just 41 students in total - is just one of our many fantastic schools on the Northern Rivers.

Cathy Adams

Eight Karters Karting

DECEMBER 16: THE revving of karts could be heard in North Lismore again this year with the Lismore Kart club continuing to grow in numbers.

It was a huge year for the club, hosting another successful Young Guns Titles in May and the Closed State Titles in July.

The future superstars of motor racing can be found at the track racing once a month, with plenty of action to be seen by with drivers aged seven and up.

Competition kicks off again in February at the North Lismore track. New members are always welcome, with details on how to join on their website at lismorekartclub.com.

Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Nine Precious Puddings

DECEMBER 14: WHO can resist a delicious Christmas pudding?

The Father Mac's Heavenly Pudding enterprise is run by the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary at Alstonville.

Proceeds from the pudding sales go towards supporting the activities of the parish, and to help other local and overseas charities.

Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings have been a festive tradition since 1981.

Father Darcy McCarthy, the first parish priest, started making the traditional Christmas puddings for a church cake stall.

Their popularity has grown over the years, and the puddings now take pride of place on many dining tables.

But, even after all these years, the recipe remains a closely guarded secret.

Visit fathermac.org.au or phone 6628 5474.

Cathy Adams

Ten Friendly Farmers

DECEMBER 13: TEN friendly farmers were mustered at the Lismore Saleyards this week to become part of The Northern Star's own version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

Farming and agriculture is an important part of life on the Northern Rivers, and we are renowned for industries such as dairy, tropical fruits, cattle, poultry, plantation forests and sugar cane.

And let's not forget the spectacle that is Beef Week.

This event attracts thousands of people and is held in Casino each May.

Dairy co-operative Norco has been operating in the region for more than 115 years.

11 Nimble Nippers - the second in our 12 Days of Christmas series
11 Nimble Nippers - the second in our 12 Days of Christmas series

Eleven Nimble Nippers

DECEMBER 12: THESE are just some of the enthusiastic nippers from the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Life Saving Club.

This year has been a big one for the club, which celebrated its 80th year.

After more than 10 years of lobbying and working out of shipping containers, the club finally moved into its new, state-of-the-art building at Lighthouse Beach in July this year.

The $5.8 million facility was funded by Ballina Shire Council, the Federal Government and the club.

Volunteer life savers will now spend the summer season watching over locals and tourists on the beaches.

Remember - always swim between the flags.

12 SAMBA BLISSTAS: We’re counting down the 12 days of Christmas.
12 SAMBA BLISSTAS: We’re counting down the 12 days of Christmas. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Twelve Blisstas Banging

DECEMBER 11: OVER the past decade, the Samba Blisstas have become as much a part of the culture of the Northern Rivers as hippies and dairy cows.

The group, which plays at most local festivals and big events - as well as a few small ones, is open to anyone. No previous musical experience or training required. Head over to the Blisstas' website for more info.

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