Advent this past year was not ‘perfect’. We managed a little reading but alas no baking, no crafts and no decorating. The last two Sundays we attended Mass hundreds of kilometres away far from our own Parish, and though the Church is Universal it wasn’t the same as being home. Yet despite it being an ‘imperfect Advent’ we still traveled towards His Birth with a sense of Wonder and Awe. Though we were unable to enjoy any of our family’s traditional Advent preparations and were only able to reflect on the excitement of His coming in snatches amongst the many events, tasks and the various to do lists, He still came! He still touched our hearts, He still gave us the Gift of His Birth. It was after all a Perfect Christmas, Christmas celebrated with our loved ones, we were Blessed indeed.
During Advent we had soo much happening; firstly the fortnight of roofing, we always seem to take on extra projects around Christmas, the warm weather beckons and some tasks need to be completed and items ordered, before Christmas when building supply shops close and tradies head to the beach for three weeks. Half our home was (and still is) crammed into the other half, 8000 homeless books leaves no room for decorations.
We were in Sydney for the third Sunday in Advent and Kiama for the fourth Sunday. During that period we attended Carpenter and Rose’s College Graduations, traveled hundreds of kilometres up and down the Coast, managed a little shopping and present making and holidayed with family and celebrated Bella’s birthday. Returning to Sydney to prepare and celebrate Christmas with our boys at their home it wasn’t until two days before Christmas that PC and I finally shopped for our children, taking advantage of the 24 hours shopping at Westfield, Paramatta. The crowds were in the thousands and still ‘bumper to bumper’ when we completed our shopping at midnight! Certainly an experience but not one I’m keen to repeat. I begin to think the year we had a baby at Christmas was our most peaceful Christmas.
It’s the ‘little things’ that make each Christmas special, that create the memories. Attending Vigil Mass together, singing hymns on the way, discovering that two of my brothers and s-i-l were unexpectedly at the same Mass as us. Having Rose come over and spend the night after she finished singing at Midnight Mass, we just managed to find room for one more sleeping mat in the girls’ room. Rose’s brother lives with our boys and was also with us for Christmas. Christmas Eve I was blessed to have all my ‘chickies’ together under one roof and thus we were together to greet Christmas Morn.
Every family has their own unique way to celebrate Christmas. Whilst PC and I buy presents for the children, the children also like to buy/make presents for each of their siblings. Sometimes it may be individual presents for each, sometimes they may groups a few siblings together to receive a joint gift, or some siblings may band together to afford an extra special gift for another sibling. This year our oldest two boys had incomes so were especially generous to their siblings. Our younger children save any birthday/Christmas money all year, and ask for extra tasks towards Christmas (around sibling birthday’s too) to earn money for purchases. It’s not the gifts themselves that are important, though they always select appropriate gifts, it’s the sacrifices, generosity, individual consideration and love that is the most treasured.
We woke early, sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and opened presents before breakfast. Rose and her brother left mid-morning to sing in the Cathedral Choir again, their third Christmas Mass while I prepared lunch, my brother K was joining us. Jenn, dear friend and American has asked for a little more Australian detail, so here ’tis. Christmas in Australia falls in Summer, some years it can be meltingly hot, some years we can have summer rains to break the heat. We were fortunate this year, the weather was perfect with a temperature of 25C/77F, so we could arrange seating for 15 by setting up tables out the back under the verandah.
Whilst each family has their own unique Christmas traditions most Australian families enjoy a cold meal for Christmas lunch and tea/dinner. Christmas lunch is our main meal, our choices are simple, three cold meats; ham, silverside and turkey. Ham is a common Australian choice for Christmas and many workplaces gift a ham to their employees as a Christmas gift, as did PC’s work. Silverside can be purchased pre-cooked and sliced or you can boil your own. Turkey is soo expensive and only a Christmas/Easter treat for us, it’s cheaper per kilo to buy a frozen shoulder and toss in the oven, which I did the day before. Accompanying our meats are potato salad, a garden salad, baby beets, corn kernels and pinneapple pieces, simple yet delicious. Now dessert is for our children (and us) the pièce de résistance, they have suggested we could just skip the main course and head straight for dessert. Our choice this year, as it is most years, was pavlova, cheesecake, custard, cherries and ice-cream. A Christmas/Easter lunch treat our children eagerly look forward to, are cans of lemonade or solo, this year our working boys purchased the boxes before we’d arrived, so touched they’d considered their siblings in yet another way.
Christmas afternoons are always slow as we’re always overcome by rich foods, little sleep (we finished wrapping at midnight Christmas Eve) and the heat. Napping, enjoying presents and time together is how it generally rolls, as it did this year. Nobody is interested in food until much later than the usual hour, when asked “what’s for tea? (dinner),” I simply arrange leftovers from lunch and everyone is happy.
Boxing Day in Australia is a Public Holiday, many families continue celebrations with family the following day, head to the beach or take advantage of the Boxing Day sales, which are similar to America’s Black Friday sales. We celebrated that evening with my brother B and his wife.