Our incredibly annoying but heartfelt Christmas traditions
The first thing that got me excited about Christmas was how seamlessly it merged with Halloween.
One day the supermarket was full of orange, pumpkinesque loot buckets, and the next day it was filled with every Christmas symbol you can think of made from marshmallow, alongside special edition Toblerones that were tall enough to enter Grade 1. I fancied sucking on a marshmallow Madonna but they seemed to be sold out.
Next year, I will be marketing edible, orange snowmen carrying Australian flags and wearing cute little “I Luv U” T-shirts. These will be targeted at those who want to get into the spirit of things from October to February but also want to keep their spending on useless special occasion crap under control.
Even if the supermarket didn’t tell me what to think, I always know the festive season is here when a certain relative turns up with something that looks like a Christmas cake, only blacker.
These bricks are baked to a point where they are immune from time. They look like they formed part of Bog Man’s morning tea, or perhaps part of Bog Man himself. I ponder, has this relative been called away to some emergency during the cooking process and stopped to build a levee bank, before getting home to take it out of the oven?
Soon after the cake is delivered, it’s time to get our tree, which is made from the finest plastic plastic can buy, out of its shabby cardboard chrysalis in the garage.
I tenderly unfold each little sprig - one up, one right, one left, repeat - with a degree of expertise that really blurs the distinction between nature and art. As long as the kids have been watching TV while I work my magic they can smell the pungent piney aroma of the forest as soon as they see it.
The queues in the toy superstores at Christmas always provide an opportunity for reflection. I reflect on nursery tales of excited children finding oranges and nuts in a real stocking. But at least we’ve stopped mincing around with the term Christmas stocking. It’s a sack now, and there’s no other word for it.
And there wont be any nuts in it. Or any products made in a plant that also process products containing nuts, or any oranges, because you can’t get a sugar high from fruit. But if there isn’t an iPad, or at least a Wii, at the bottom of the sack then you could be treated to some behaviour that demonstrates your child’s heightened sense of justice.
Clearly if you are friends with the Hallmark or Simson family it’s not something that you mention, but Christmas cards are in the throes of a not-so-slow death.
Sure, writing them had its tiresome aspect. Can I really write exactly the same thing again?! But on the receiving end they were great for decking the halls or at least decking the open plan living dining kitchen. Pinning print outs of Christmas emails to a red ribbon strung from beneath the split system air-conditioner just isn’t the same.
When the big day finally comes though it’s all about preserving tradition.
For women this usually means a lot of cooking, serving and cleaning and for men this usually means a lot of drinking. Relatives get to manifest their long-standing lack of insight into each other’s lives, tastes and interests with their choice of gifts. And sweaty children get to sit down to steamy bowls of a pudding that everyone under 35 has hated since time immemorial.
What I do love about Christmas though, is the way it makes me look forward to the eight hour drive to Merimbula, in a car with about as much legroom as a sleeping bag, a litter of small children and the glow in the dark cricket set from Nanna poking into the back of someone’s head.
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