9 December 2006

Robin ran away

This meme is doing the rounds so like a sheep, I will follow. I got this from Janet who took it from Penni and changed it. I’ve fixed the split infinitive because I’m just like that.

We are not religious, but I figure if we’re going to celebrate Christmas, we need to acknowledge (and teach our children who after all, live in a predominantly Christian culture) the reason why. So we celebrate the nativity and the birth of Jesus Christ, and I feel no conflict about it. I can believe and appreciate that JC was a great prophet-like special person, without necessarily buying the saviour of the world and son of God immaculate inspection stuff. I want my children to know what Christmas is about, apart from the rampant consumerism and greed promoted in the shops and the images of Santa everywhere exhorting children to write lists of stuff they want to just get in December. In our house Santa is known as Father Christmas, and he arrives and does the stocking thing and eats the treats we leave for him. I think I would feel more of a hypocrite if we just did the reindeer and Santa thing and presents presents presents and ignored the whole nativity. That’s my take on it, anyway. (Born-agains, don’t start on me. Peace and joy and all that).

I also have no sympathy for those who say Oh it’s not a proper Christmas without snow and cold. It just doesn’t feel right. We are bombarded with images of snowflakes and bundled up children breathing steam as they brave the dark night to go carolling; why? I don’t think it snowed in Bethlehem on that fateful night a couple of thousand years ago. In fact, I think Israel is a kind of arid, desert climate, no? So. Forget the US-Eurocentric snowy goodness and celebrate Christmas the way it was meant to be! Hot! Or at least, warmish.

Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Neither. It’s hot here (see previous rant). At Christmas lunch the adults drink champagne and the children get ginger beer. Also, lots of tonic water and ice.

Does Father Christmas wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
Wrapped definitely. Most of the presents under the tree are from us and friends and family, but Father Christmas does leave one gift for each child under the tree on Christmas morning. He also leaves little trinkets and treats in each child’s stocking. In return he gets a mince pie and a glass of milk, and his reindeer eat the carrots and magic reindeer food (oats mixed with glitter) sprinkled on the front verandah.

Coloured lights on tree/house or white?
White on the tree. Nothing on the house.

Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. (Mistletoe is a weed, people).

When do you put up your decorations?
We have developed the tradition of putting up the tree on the 1st of December. Only because the children used to nag and nag to put it up the minute the decorations appeared in the supermarkets (September) and I had to arbitrarily set a date. It’s now a fixed tradition and the children do the whole tree themselves while I decorate the mantelpiece with the angel paper chains, the string for the cards, and the Advent calendar and candles. The children have perfected the art of spreading the decorations evenly around the tree after the fateful year they put everything on the front (so you can see them all!) and the tree promptly fell over.

What's your favourite Christmas dish?
A huge platter of tiger prawns. Served with rocket, asparagus, avocado and smoked salmon salad.

Favourite Christmas memory as a child?
One year my brother and I received bikes for Christmas. When we got up on Christmas morning there were two envelopes on the tree, attached by string, and containing instructions to follow the string to our presents. We each gathered up our strings, following them along a long convoluted path around the house, over tables, under beds and eventually out into the back garden where the strings wound around trees and bushes. My brother’s string did several particularly spectacular loops around the apricot tree, while mine lay in a tangled pile at the bottom of the tree before continuing on toward the shed. We opened the door to the shed and there were two beautiful shiny yellow bikes. It was a complete and utter surprise, and great fun.

Mum later told the story of how she and my eldest cousin had crept outside in the dark on Christmas Eve to lay the string trails.
My cousin had climbed the apricot tree to mischievously tangle her string around its branches, and Mum had stood at the bottom laughing, forgetting that she was still paying out her string into a huge pile on the ground.

It was the most fun I’ve ever had on a Christmas morning.

When and how did you learn the truth about Father Christmas?
Around the age of nine or ten. I remember the deflated feeling.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Once when I was a child, my brother and I, totally hyped up on Christmas anticipation and fervour, nagged and nagged and pleaded until we drove my mother crazy on Christmas Eve and she eventually allowed us to open one gift, on the condition that she chose them. She handed us each a rectangular box from under the tree, and we opened them to find jigsaw puzzles. They kept us happily occupied for the rest of the day.

I am mean though and don’t allow my boys to open any presents until Christmas morning.

How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
With lots of glittery stuff collected over the years. Each child gets a new decoration in their stocking each year too, which gets added to the collection. There are lots of homemade decorations too, made from icypole sticks and bits of cardboard. Last year a friend gave me a tiny string of miniature Tibetan prayer flags which adds a bohemian air to proceedings.

Snow! Love it or dread it?
Love it. But it’s totally alien to an Australian Christmas. It’s usually hot hot hot.

I did have a white Christmas in Idaho once, and we spent the afternoon outside making snow angels and hooning around on old tyres tied behind the snowmobiles.

I also had a cold (but not white) Christmas in London as a 21 year old. The decorations in Regent Street were a sight to behold and brought tears to my eyes.

Can you ice skate?
Badly but I can stay upright. However I haven’t skated since I was a teenager. Is the Oakleigh skating rink still in operation?

Do you remember your favourite gift?
Orinoco the womble was pretty special.

What's the most important thing about Christmas for you?
Being with family. Seeing my children’s faces as they give their little homemade gifts to us and the grandparents and each other. Creating traditions for my children that they might take with them into their own lives.

What's your favourite Christmas dessert?
Pud. With vanilla ice cream.

What's your favourite Christmas tradition?
In the lead up to Christmas, I love our Advent tradition. A window of the calendar opened each evening and the candle lit as we read a chapter of Mary’s Little Donkey, and the decorating of the Advent table each Sunday. The Advent Fairy secretly adding little bits and bobs to the table every now and then when she feels like it. Baby Jesus arriving in the cradle on Christmas morning. The three kings appearing on Epiphany, hopefully with a camel this year.

On Christmas Day itself, the children bring their stockings to our bedroom (rule: the sun must be UP) and open them together, all over our bed. My brother and I did the same thing as children. My parents always said when the year arrived that they woke up first and sat up in bed eagerly waiting for us to arrive with our stockings, only to realise we were great big late-sleeping teenagers, was the year she knew we’d grown up.

What tops your tree?
A big dorky gold star.

Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
Oh, both!

What's your favourite Christmas song?
Once in Royal David’s City, sung by the lone boy soprano who opens the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols performed by the Kings College Choir each year. Makes my spine tingle.

I’m also quite partial to Greensleeves.

As you can see I’m a traditionalist – I like Christmas carols. It annoys me when I hear people say "Oh I hate Christmas carols. If I hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer one more time I’ll scream." Ahem. Rudolph and Jingle Bells are Christmas songs, not carols.

The orchestra that Son #1 joined this year is playing at Carols by Candlelight this year on Christmas Eve.* I wonder how many cheesy Christmas songs will be in amongst the carols.

*local, not the big one at The Bowl.

Candy canes?


Janet said...

Enjoyed your take on this meme. I'm seriously considering going with the advent tradition and including the nativity story in our clebration next year. In our own unique way, of course. Christmas has to be about something other than just stuff.

Have had to consult the oracle of the internerd re split infinitive. Hooray for Google and Wikipedia. Still not sure if I should be concerned? Did the original meme contain one?

jorth said...

That string story is fabulous! (tucking it away for future use)

Stomper Girl said...

Like you, I insist that my kids be told why we celebrate Christmas. Otherwise its all rampant consumerism, which appals me. And we have set up Christmas traditions for them too. Although, have to say, they're all from me/my family. It's like Fixit's traditions never existed!

Loved your take on the meme. Especially the string and the bikes story. And I bet your kids adore Christmas, sounds like you make it very special for them.

Stjernesol said...

Love your Meme! I did it too and posted in on my blog :)

herhimnbryn said...

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for I have always said Christmas has to be cold! Not being a religious type I have never thought about the 'origin' of it all. Soup lady you are right..... Bethlehem was in an arid country and it would have been hot...I am now going to revise my feelings ( a little, can't change the habit of a lifetime) and start some new Australian Christmas traditions in our house.......now where are my boughs of Eucalyptus , gum nuts and gold paint?

Jerry & Maxy said...

What is Pud?

The bicylcle Cmas sounds WONDERFUL!

sueeeus said...

I love that your boys make gifts for everyone. Nothing beats hand made. :)

Martina said...

That was a fun read! I agree that the 1st Xmas was probably warm! In my belief system, Jesus was a man who was a gifted medium but just a man. I am going to do the meme too!

Emma said...

Suse, thanks to you reminding me how much I loved the books, I have ordered both Father Chirstmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday from Dymocks. I am so excited!

Your Meme was very interesting. I refuse to buy snowman decrations because they have no relevance in our Christmas celebrations.


BabelBabe said...

I have pushed hard to have the Baby Jesus angle included in our family chirstmas - this year, as a matter of fact, my children are participating in the christmas pageant at church, and i am thrilled. Ilove going to christmas eve services, all the lovely candles, and choir in robes, singing carols.

I LOVE candy canes, too. I lost that question in my version of this meme.

Di said...

Love your post.
Had a good laugh at the tree decoration learning process, and Orinoco (I used to have one a long time ago..). I'm with you on the prawns too.
I like your take on the whole celebration of Christmas. A good balance that isn't glossing over the meaning of it.

shula said...

Excellent post, Suse.

Be a darl, and explain the split infinitive to me, when you have time.

I suspect I do it every 5 seconds, or so.

tiel s-k said...

What a great read. Love your honest views about Christmas and agree with mostly everything. I might have to steal this if I have time, if that is OK.

AND SUN UP...be glad you don't live in QLD, the sun is up at 4.30-5.00am at Christmas. It's a long day so the champagne pops open around 10ish!

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

My eight year old has had a year of Bah'ai this year (did I put the apostrophe in the wrong place? I usually do) instead of non-scripture. I thought it would give her a broader approach to religion since many of the kids (and the principal) of her non-denominational school are quite religious.

She has become SO anti-God of any kind that I'm sending her back to non-scripture next year for a break. But I do think your take on the nativity is a good one. I'd like to be sure the kids know what other people are talking about (and I have to deal with this rather shocking, extreme atheism that my year 3 child has developed!)

shula said...

a 3 year old athiest?


shula said...

you know I meant to type atheist, don't you?

Joke said...

It actually gets PRETTY DAMNED COLD in Bethlehem in December, but no, it doesn't snow there.

For all that snow/tree stuff, feel free to blame the Germans. I assure you my Iberic & Italic forebears didn't come up with any of that.


P.S. It's almost invariably a hot Christmas here as well, but if one squints, it sort of looks like snow.

Joke said...

P.S. Oh yeah, in American slang "Pud" is, um, a synonym for, er, the man's...uh...well, just think of The Punisher.


Annie said...

Enjoyed your favorite Christmas story. I was so bummed when I found out that mistletoe was a parasite! They are all over the trees in a college in South Carolina! Enjoyed your meme.


shobhana said...

umm... what's rocket?

Gina E. said...

Hope you find this comment, Mrs Soup, as it has been a while since your original post. Just wanted to say that I agree 100% with your opinions as stated here. We discovered something wonderful on 23rd December, via the HSV7 news. "Walk Through Bethlehem" - a recreation of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus. At St Mary's School in High Street, Thornbury. They've been doing it for six years. Your kids would love it.