In a country that is relatively young in terms of tradition it requires me to go back to childhood and the childhood of my children to capture any sense of tradition.
Christmas like all holy days in the year was about going to Church. When I was young midnight mass was where you went so your Christmas day could be enjoyed without having to interrupt it by going to Church.
When I was married and my children were small we would go to my in-laws on Christmas eve, attend the evening vigil mass and then back to my in-laws for some dinner before loading the kids into our wagon and heading for home.
Now my lids like all kids in those days were of the belief that Santa was coming and you had to be asleep as quickly as possible for fear if he found you awake he wouldn’t leave you anything.
On our journey home from the in-laws there was a spot we passed where away to our right was a red light. To my kids it was the sign that Santa was close and we needed to get home before he reached our house. There were always cries for me to step on it, cries of ‘Oh my goodness he’s getting closer, hurry dad hurry.’
Christmas eve was the only night of the year where I could get my children out of the car and into bed in one action and find them instantly asleep.
That of course was when the fun started.
Each child had a pillowcase, their name marked on it and their gifts arranged in their bag and left under the Christmas tree.
This could take some time but it was a fun thing to be doing knowing the excitement that would begin at first light. Though the fun didn’t extend to Santa and his obvious sense of humour in giving one child a new bike, which he delivered, in a box with instructions that made little sense.
But tradition apparently meant it was dad’s job to assemble the bike and have it all ready to go by morning, which was pretty much when I got it finished.
Then there was Christmas morning itself. My kids were told they couldn’t be up before the sun, which didn’t help us much as in summer here the sun is up at 5.30am.
It wasn’t long and they were all awake and I loved the sound of them opening their bags and the exclamations of joy at finding in their bags just the thing they had asked for.
Then as parents we would be bombarded with kids jumping on our bed showing us what Santa had left.
By mid morning we would be off to the in-laws for the traditional gift giving and Christmas lunch.
In Australia on Christmas day it is often hot and humid. But tradition in those days still dictated a hot lunch, which meant my mother in law standing the kitchen baking various meats, and a swag of roasted vegetables. And of course served with every trimming imaginable.
After lunch was the very traditional afternoon nap while children played in the pool and then the journey back home to ready ourselves for the evening festivities at my dad’s house.
Of all the traditions I experienced as a child and as an adult the Christmas evening dinner at dad’s still goes on. Though it is my house now my kids still expect to come here on Christmas night, sit around the tables and eat whatever is left over from the Christmas lunches they have attended.
Some years back we decreed that Christmas night would be cold food as it is too hot to do otherwise and that has pleased everyone.
Usually at lunch it was dad home alone or whichever son or daughter would call in on him.
One-year dad was home alone at lunch and a new tradition was born. Dad had a ham sandwich for lunch and so we all had a ham sandwich if we called in to see him. When I lived with him he was insistent that a ham sandwich was what he most wanted. Though we laughed about it at the time we also respected the fact that to dad Christmas wasn’t so much about what you ate but more how you felt about the day and as he’d say a sandwich would sustain him until the family showed up later in the evening.