Shop 'til you drop... parties... baking... ideas for home-made decorations and gifts... food, food and more food... the odd drop of drink... trees to trim... arrangements for family get-togethers... Carols by Candlelight, all combined with end of year concerts... school break ups and speech nights and complicated by the weather, which in Melbourne at least can be 39 one day and 17 the next. Yes. it's December and we're creeping towards the Christmas climax.
Every year we wonder why we put ourselves through it and promise that it will be simpler, that we will be better organised, all presents will be bought by the end of November...yet somehow the fever strikes again.
So why do we do it all?
Religious reasons. For Christians it's the celebration of the birth of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us and is thus the basis for their celebrations, for carol singing, nativity scenes and plays and church services.
Cultural reasons. There is also the cultural overlay of Santa Claus/Father Christmas and a mighty commercial push to give bigger, better, more expensive gifts, to gather friends and families together to eat at tables groaning with food and to drink copiously, again the subject to much advertising. Christmas has become a celebration of family, or of an ideal we have of family, often not matched by the reality of feuds and undercurrents!
Unavoidable reality. We can't avoid the fact that in Australia Christmas coincides with summer, the end of the school year and the long holidays so there will be a range of school/kinder/child care year activities combined with Christmas ones and younger children in particular will tend to be suffering from end of school tiredness and associated behaviours!
Tradition. We've always done it this way. Thus there are the historical images of bush huts sweltering in the heat with women over wood ovens turning out rich roast dinners and hot steamed puddings. Fortunately over recent years, more and more people are turning to more weather appropriate meals: seafood, cold meats, salads, berries, ice cream puddings, but often each of these changes has been greeted with some mutterings about how 'Mum wouldn't have done it like that.' And then there are the difficulties when couples marry. Where to go for Christmas: lunch at one and dinner at the other? Christmas Eve at one, Christmas Day at the other? And still more complicated when there are different cultural and religious traditions in the two families! And let's not forget all those songs and images of white Christmases! Still we see Santa arriving on surfboards and fire trucks, by plane in outback communities, by Six White Boomers according to Rolf Harris. And occasionally we might even sing an Australian Christmas Carol like 'The north wind is tossing the leaves' or the 'Carol of the Birds' to give a taste of reality amongst all that northern hemisphere snow!
Newspapers, magazines and blogs since about September have been full of advice about:
- stress free approaches to it all;
- the need in our wealthy world to adopt a simpler approach;
- the value of taking time to enjoy the excitement, especially of children;
- the fact that many people will go without, so we should give time and money to enable them to share in the seasonal festivities;
- the perennial debate about whether schools, preschools and child care centres should sing Christmas carols or have nativity plays, or even celebrate the season at all out of deference to those of other or no religions
- Those who have lost much loved members of their family during the year face the fist celebration without them. In our house, we always toast 'absent friends' which brings to mind these family members, and those who are also separated by distance interstate or overseas.
- Alcohol and drugs and the road toll will spoil the season for many families, bringing death, injury, violence and unpleasantness and each year the joy will be tinged with the sadness of remembrance of these events.
- The lonely, mentally ill and the homeless members of our society feel excluded from the spirit of family and togetherness and sentimentality that pervade our celebrations and media. Many wonderful people give time and effort to including these marginalised members of society in various charity meals, but this cannot completely erase the pain and rates of hospital admissions and suicides soar at this time of year.
At Susan Rogan Family Care, we wish all our families and their nannies, and all our readers a joyful Christmas season and a happy new year.