Yes, Christmas is upon us again. Once again we are being pressured to spend, spend, spend, on gifts we can’t afford, and more food than we could ever eat in a week. Pictures of tables brimming with plates and bowls of irresistible culinary delights. Even the family pet is dressed for the occasion and shares in special treats.
For some people this may appear as the perfect family get-together, and many will strive to make it a reality, but for others, it is anything but a time for celebration.
When I was a child, I admit that was a while ago, getting ready for xmas was an exciting time. Christmas cakes and puddings, made to time honoured recipes, were prepared weeks before xmas day. The puddings, which were boiled in cloths, were hung up in a safe place to mature.
Turkeys did not play a central role on the christmas table, as they seem to have done in America, chicken was a basic, often home raised, and ham if the family could afford it. The ham would be ordered from the local butcher weeks before xmas.
Decorations, many saved from one year to another, were hand made. These were sometimes made by children at school, some were family activities for after tea in the evenings. (no TV then!) Streamers made in different colours of crepe paper would be hung from corner to corner in the dining room along with other xmassy baubles and bells.
The xmas tree was a real pine tree that could be collected from the bush near our home, or sometimes one could be bought from outside the local shop when they had cut some to sell.
Gifts were often items made by family members throughout the year. With the Aussie xmas falling in the hottest months of the year, it was not a time to make scarves, or jumpers. If you were fortunate, as a child you might get one large gift, like a bicycle, a pram for a doll.,or a special ‘going out’ set of clothing. Books, games and small toys were stocking fillers.
Mums and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, were quite happy to receive boxes of chocolates, hankerchiefs, and hand made items for use around the home, like decorated face washers, hand towels, tea towels, etc.
From my own point of view, this was a much more doable xmas. one that would be manageable for most families. Going into debt for the following year (or further) is craziness. We are being encouraged by all different kinds of money lenders, to spend money we don’t have, and then pay interest on it.
As to the meaning behind Christmas, and celebrating the birth of Christ, this seems to have been gobbled up by merchandising and overproduction.
Christmas is a sad time for many people, bringing back memories of the passing of loved ones killed in accidents caused by alcohol affected drivers and holidays gone wrong.
This year Australia’s east coast is ablaze with our worst bushfires in recorded history, and summer has just begun. Dozens of homes lost, thousands of hectares of our beautiful bushland devastated, the damage to our wildlife unimaginable.
No, this will not be a merry xmas for those among us who have tragically lost loved ones during this period, but we can give a heartfelt THANK YOU to the volunteers who battle our blazes, the ambulance personnel who will try to save our injured, the doctors and nurses who will try to put us back together, the police force who will try to keep accidents numbers down, and the hundreds of support workers it takes to keep everything working.
If you are reading this, I wish you and yours, a happy and safe Christmas and holiday season. Should you come out the other side unscathed, please say a huge thank you to all of the above, and another one to your personal God, whoever that may be.