Arts & Leisure

In search of a Christmas tradition

Star © JournoNews 2009

My youngest son asked whether he’d be getting a Christmas sack at the end of his bed on Christmas morning.
Since he no longer believes in Santa, he knows that his mother and father will be the ones tip-toeing to his bed in the dead of night to deposit treasure in a lumpy pillowcase.
Even so, there’s an expectation. “It’s our tradition, isn’t it?” he said.
It made me think. What sort of traditions was I passing on? What sort of memories would he have about Christmas? I know I’ve failed dismally to even attempt to bake a traditional Christmas cake, never mind a Christmas pie. A Martha Stewart, I am clearly not.
It’s not that I don’t have Christmas memories myself. Every year, in my own home, a month or so prior to Christmas, there would be a boiled fruit cake bubbling on the stove – the delicious aroma of spices, dried fruit mingling with a generous dollop of brandy. The fact that the cake was sometimes burnt a tad on top, did nothing to deter my mother – she persevered with her tradition for years. She even managed the marzipan icing. Not for her shop-bought Christmas pies either – she even made her own pastry – crumbly yes, but totally her own.
Perhaps a deterrent is that I don’t like eating Christmas cake. The same goes for mince pies. I have an aversion to orange peel which seems to be a vital ingredient in anything Chrismassy.
I remember eating Christmas pudding, but only for the money hidden therein.
There’s a frantic sense that I’m letting traditions slip away.
In a vague effort to ignore the humidity and heat, and welcome the festive season, I decided to make use of the scorching weather and string colourful solar lights on a gum tree at the entrance to our home. The lights work surprisingly well, and I pride myself in the fact that they are not using up one jot of electricity. The Aussie sun is enough to keep them going all night.
We have a tree – not real, but with a fairly convincing foliage and a smattering of fake snow on the tips. This year, my daughter chose to go all upmarket on us and avoided all the homemade decorations and dollar shop offerings – opting instead for classy baubles. So we have a posh tree this year – and a new string of lights that actually works.
What I need to lose, is the European picture postcard in my head that sings snow, fir trees, a real Christmas tree, crackling fire festooned with red velvet ribbon interspersed with real holly – and of course, the obligatory sumptuous Christmas stockings stylishly dangling from the lintel.
An Aussie Christmas is a tad different and the sooner I embrace it in all its sweaty, sticky glory, the better.
A tradition I will follow is to escape the morning mayhem and heat and attend another evening church service.
And next year, I will go one step further. I will follow my neighbour who left home at 4.30am this morning to be first in line for fresh off the boat seafood at Brisbane’s wharf.
As it turned out, he was not the only early bird – a queue over a hundred metres long greeted him at 5am and he waited 45 minutes to snare his booty – fresh crabs and prawns.
Those will be tossed on the barbie, no doubt, with lashings of garlic and butter – washed down with a crisp Riesling and plenty of ice cold beer.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Wherever you are, I wish you a blessed Christmas – one that incorporates the true meaning of Christmas – the Christ, in ‘mas’ – and that, I suppose is the tradition that matters most.

© Lois Nicholls 2009

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