Christmas starts in July. With the ticking over of the new financial year comes the whisper…who will be the first in the family to raise the question of Christmas? By December the tinsel has been at the supermarket since August, Santa is already worn out by shopping centre appearances and we still haven’t begun getting into the festive spirit.
First and foremost, we have a birthday. DSS has his birthday a week before Christmas. Had the midwives had their way, and not my obstetrician, he would have arrived on his due date…25th of December. It was then, we made the decision that from this time forward, DSS birthday needed to come first. To that end, we went so far as to say, from now on, for each of the boys birthdays we would go away to be a family. Just us. Our quartet. To maintain the focus on what is important…parties are nice, presents are flash-in-the-pan but, us, as a family, we’re the core of this annual celebration.
Then, we can have a week, just one week, hard and fast into the Christmas we’d rather avoid. It’s not that we don’t like Christmas per se. I love the time of year, the decorations, the seasonal food and music. But this year, I don’t have the energy to smile and go along with it. This year, its time to say, you know what? We’d prefer do things differently. It isn’t to be offensive. It’s to be true to ourselves. A long run or, bushwalk, a kilo of prawns, a couple of cold bevvies, half a watermelon and a Slip n’Slide at home or, away with Cranky. Ticks all the boxes.
No, we’re not going as far as a Festivus pole in the corner. But wow, an annual ‘Airing of Grievances’ could be a ticketed event in 2017.
As a family, DHB and I, recognise Christmas in its faith bound origin. A time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, as celebrated within the Catholic tradition. We’ve both been comprehensively exposed to the ritual, history and stories of the Catholic Church. Our current practice has moved away from weekly doffing of heads within a building but, that’s another story. It doesn’t mean that we don’t believe or, that we don’t have faith. Take the ecclesiastical message out of Christmas and you have a family seeking refuge from persecution in a land far from home who are the beneficiaries of a few good people to keep them safe and see them resettled. Can’t imagine a modern retelling of that little number?
At the heart of it, I hear family, coming together, kindness. What I don’t hear, are toy sales, the biggest grocery bill of the year, a drinks fridge and a food coma. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a big fancy meal and a couple of drinks. If that’s what you enjoy, I think that’s wonderful. I enjoy that too. Just not this year. Instead of trying to ‘out-Christmas’ Christmas or, having the most memorable bonbons and table setting for the past five years, how about we cut the wrapping paper crap, have a nice simple meal and have a normal day? Without the unnecessary stress of trying to please everyone.
We have similar but, distinctly different memories of Christmas as children. For DHB as the youngest of five siblings, his memories are of boarding school siblings coming home and a family Christmas tree selection and decoration session. Attending Mass, on Christmas morning or, Christmas Eve, having a cold lunch and spending the afternoon in the pool or, playing with the newly received toys and family games.
Much of the tension around Christmas seems to stem from off-spring having other places to go and other places to be. The scattering of the family away from the family unit. The introduction of partners means another family and their Christmas traditions need to be honoured, and an on-off rotation that gets lost over time. Or, you as the off-spring, recognise the that the expected Christmas-role doesn’t fit and you decide you’d like to spring away and develop your own traditions for your family for the holiday season.
One of our favourite Christmas’s we adopted a backpacker. Lee is now a special member of our family, who with love we see grow from strength to strength. We’ve even tried to learn from Lee the art of having ‘no plans’. That Christmas we shared a simple breakfast, a light prawn salad, a super easy pav and a couple of beers in the pool with a storm gathering overhead in the afternoon stands out for the simplicity. No bells and whistles. Our family, some kindness, coming together. We would love to celebrate Christmas in Europe one year. As the song goes, Christmas in Australia is typically, on a scorching summer’s day. To indulge in snowfall and fir trees, hot food and ugly jumpers, that would be a magical and memorable Christmas.
Then there are presents. It should be simple but, so often it is a minefield. The tradition of gift-giving comes from Saint Nicholas, who anonymously gave gold to a needy family in the night and began the tradition of giving gifts to loved ones at Christmas. We’ve tried to refer to ‘Santa Nick’ as a point of difference. Now we have our own children we’re hyper-aware of the use and misuse of Santa. DSX is as well. More because he’s scared of him and not for his present delivering potential. We’re selective about the toys and child-crappery we choose to collect throughout the year. Christmas is no different. The aim is to keep it in perspective; something to read, something to wear, something you need, something you want and something to give. The commercial influence and the tyranny of purposeless presents was exemplified the year, pre-child, we received three insulated picnic sets, complete with a bottle of wine and wine glasses (if you have been the beneficiary of a picnic set from us over the years, it was re-gifted with love).
This year, we’ve put up our funny little Christmas tree. DSX is all about the lights. DSS is redecorating the lower limbs of the tree, regularly, looking for the precise arrangement. The cat is wondering why we’ve been so kind as to put a personal climbing gym in the lounge room for her. Kinderling is playing a lovely selection of modern and classic carols and songs to help us into the mood. DSX has chosen the gifts to go under the giving tree, ‘Cos we’ve got stuff. So we give to a family who need stuff, Mum’. The local shopping centres have turned into a mecca for crazy, rush and dare I say, short-temper.
Sticking with family, kindness and coming together, we’ve got a nice little brunch and a recipe for Singapore Slings to share with Nain and, planning on a swim and prawn salad to share with Ra’Ra and Ba’Pa in the afternoon.
Keeping it Simple.