Christmas in Australia is confusing. As a child I could never understand the incessant references to snow, being cold and all of the things that most people living in the Northern Hemisphere associate with Christmas. In Australia Christmas falls just after the longest day of the year. It is hot. Melt the bitumen, spend the day under the air conditioner hot. Unless you live in Tasmania where it has been known to snow at Christmas, but what Australians count as snow would be what Canadians call dew.
Christmas decorations make no sense in Australia. Poinsettias flower in June, holly is not grown anywhere. We have any number of other prickly plants, why would we want to introduce another? Pine trees do grow here but in Queensland at least they are tall and spindly; not the type that you see in the American movies. Besides, the significance of the tree that stays green through the winter is lost. Most Australian native plants are evergreen. Christmas lights have become a thing in recent years but as a child it was another thing that didn’t make sense. It doesn’t get fully dark until around seven-thirty, much later in the southern states.
As an adult I was able to understand the significance of these traditions and I was able to understand that our colonial ancestors kept Christmas traditions in an attempt to make themselves feel at home. I understand that these days it is about keeping up with everyone else in the world. Australians seem to struggle with being different and proud of it, many of us just want to be like the Americans we see on our televisions.
And so we celebrate Christmas. For me as a child Christmas has strong connections with the Christian feast commemorating the birth of Christ. For me as an adult that significance remains. We have a nativity scene on display in our house we attend mass. The Unicorn attends under duress because she is a self proclaimed Satanist. I don’t want to have that discussion with her grandmother so we have agreed she will go and not discuss it.
For the most part large family gatherings are not a part of our Christmas landscape. Distance has been the predominant reason for this. My parents live a six hour drive away. For many years one of my brothers has lived even further. My other brother wants as little to do with his siblings and mother as possible and so spends as short an amount of time at Christmas gatherings as he can. My children were the only grandchildren on my side of the family until The Unicorn was about five and her brother was eight. On Mr. Jones’ side of the family they were younger than their cousins by a similar gap so hanging out in the pool or bashing around the paddock with their cousins was not something they got to do.
Today we will be packing Christmas into the back of the ute and driving six hours to Grandma’s house to spend several days practicing being patient and dealing with heat and guilt trips while Christmas goes past for another year. It isn’t something I am looking forward to. I would rather be on the yacht if I am honest but Christmas is not about being selfish. It is about being kind and making sure your family is OK.
We have entered a time in our lives where our children are able to care for themselves but now our parents are ageing. Mr. Jones’s parents live with us and they will be spending Christmas with his sister and her family. In all honesty they would probably rather be at home with us than in a strange house with six rowdy great-grandchildren. His mother has a health condition that is not serious but does require constant monitoring. It also means that her life can be threatened by the common cold. It is hard watching a parent deteriorate.
My own parents live in a very small rural community with limited health facilities. Any health emergency results in a trip in either a helicopter or small aerial ambulance to the nearest large hospital. Located in a town not anywhere near where myself or any of my brothers live. They are in their seventies and my father insists on working his farm as he has done his whole life. Their living situation is not sustainable but at the moment no-one wants to make a plan.
So in short my family is not really OK. There isn’t a lot I can do to make it OK. I would dearly love to pack my parents up and move them somewhere closer to me, as painful as that process would be. It would certainly make my life much simpler, and possibly theirs. But it isn’t happening any time soon, if ever.
I read Marie’s Christmas post and found myself nodding as she described a preference for spending time with those closest to her in small, intimate gatherings. I feel that is the direction my Christmas will take as time goes by. I will always have a tree in my house. I will always have a nativity. I will always have ham but it will never be baked, who has time for that and it is freaking summer here! I will always buy some gifts for my immediate family and I hope I will be able to participate in crazy Christmas antics in the school staffroom for several more years.
Thank you for joining me on my early morning Christmas eve ramble. I hope that you all enjoy your Christmases, whatever they look like. If surviving is your goal for this time then I empathize and wish you luck.