Christmas Day the weather was perfect. By perfect I mean mid to high twenties, blue skies and sunny. Not too hot for those of us cooking a roast. Not too cold for those celebrating in parks and gardens around the city. For there is no one way to celebrate here in Australia; it depends on where you come from, originally, and who you are celebrating with. If you are Vietnamese, Greek, Italian, Chinese, Dutch, Swiss, Faroese … or one of the many other nationalities living in multicultural Melbourne … We all do it differently.
We cooked a roast because my parents were British. But it was not a decision entered into lightly. It was bandied about on numerous occasions leading up to Christmas Day. Seth invariably raised the subject while smacking his lips because at seventeen years-of-age he is perpetually hungry. We never decide until a couple of days before hand; we wait for the weather forecast. If it is not going to be mild we roast. If it is going to be sweltering, we cook the meat early in the day and have a range of salads. A warm, sunny Christmas is normal to me. I have lived here most of my life but for my Mum and Andrew’s Mum (who is from the Netherlands) I doubt it ever feels like the real thing.
This year we had roast pork with all the trimmings. We also branched out and had an entree: Chicken and Asparagus Crepes, which were made by my Mum, as was the Christmas Pudding. We have ice cream on our pudding, by the way, and brandy cream. Hot custard would not be conducive even on a sunny day in the mid-twenties. We all ate far too much, of course, but … I am running ahead of myself.
Christmas morning we rose early to prepare the veggies and to put the meat on. We had breakfast on the back deck in the morning sun (Sorry Sparkly, I feel like I am boasting). We then went to Church, as is our custom throughout the year. There were two things to note about the Christmas service this year. Firstly, someone had been to the two dollar shop and bought a number of pulsating Christmas lights which had been strung up around the Church. It was festive in a kind of I’m-getting-a-headache sort of way. It made me long for an advent wreath and candles. I am getting old, I think. The second item of note was that worship leader was wearing a very swish, silver grey suit with a canary yellow tie. He was the only person in the congregation thus attired and he copped a lot of good natured teasing. ‘Look!’ he finally said by way of explanation, ‘It’s new. If Geoff (on drums) can wear a Metallica T Shirt to church, I should be able to wear a suit.’ He was right of course. No one should have blinked an eye-lid. But to tell you the truth it was kind of scary; he looked like a Tele-evangelist.
After church we had morning tea as we sat around the tree and opened our presents. There were only a few genuine surprises this year but we managed to make the most of it anyway. There was a lovely Sinterklaas gift and poem from Carine in the Netherlands, a parcel from Winnie in the Faroe Islands and a board game from Paul which had to be tried out immediately! We had, of course, opened our surprises from Switzerland at Alice’s farewell dinner. One of the benefits of hosting exchange students and having far flung family is the feeling of being part of something global on Christmas day.
Our good friend Rose Ho and her two sons Joseph and John joined us for lunch. Happily we had bumped into Rose and John at the shopping centre Christmas Eve. After discovering that were both planning small family Christmases with no extra bodies we decided to combine. The Ho’s brought a salad, some nibbles and wine to add to the festivities as well as their lovely selves. It may seem strange that we would desire extra people on what for many is a strictly family occasion but for me growing up in Australia without extended family Christmas always involved others. Whether it was breakfast with the neighbours, lunch with friends, or a light tea with another migrant family, we forged a common bond. There is a precedence for inclusion, after all. It lies at the heart of what we are celebrating. Two thousand years ago, on the very first Christmas, a harassed hotelier found room for the Christ Child and welcomed him in.
So there you have it, Christmas 2007, done. We played Bocce on the back lawn between main course and desert. I am not sure what Mum put in the pudding but it seemed to have a soporific effect. We were all yawning widely before Rose and the boys had even left. We slept the afternoon away and ate light leftovers for tea. Actually we ate them for a number of days (we are still eating them). We normally go away camping on December 27th. But this year we are taking Priya back to her country of origin, the lovely Fiji Islands. It is a place we were fortunate enough to live in for four years and where we spent many a happy Christmas … but that is another story …