Each year, our family gets more chilled about Christmas. Losing Mum recently has only concentrated our efforts to enjoy fun and relaxed time together. Besides, none of us are big consumers and on the whole, I would rather have a tarantula crawl into my ear and lay eggs, than spend a day trudging around a shopping mall.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Ebenezer Scrooge. I love, love, love Christmas. I don’t think there is enough magic in our lives, so I’ll take anything I can work with. I decorate the tree with handmade
trinkets my children made when they were little and baubles we have created together through the years. I also have a collection of sparkling, store-bought ornaments. I used to buy one of the prettiest baubles I could find and afford each year and over many Christmases I collected quite a few. When Christmas is over, they are packed carefully away to survive the ravages of time and every year when I open up the boxes, there they are; each a little story of its own, waiting for its moment in the sun. As I take them from their little nests, I think of all the things that have happened since the day I last packed them away… little time capsule waiting for me each December… a ‘if only I had known then what I know now’ moment.
And so, here it is, Christmas Eve; the fairy lights are on (a given that a stylist will have them all over the house!)) and the tree decorated. There is the odd gift wrapped in brown paper and recycled ribbon for family and friends. Their gifts are only little things I have bought through the year as I have seen them. Things I know they will need, or enjoy. Most are vintage and purchased second-hand from charity stores and my sister is receiving a donation made in her name to the Great Barrier Reef fund to fight dredging.
And so that we can enjoy a little partying, my gift to Dad is to repair his stereo, broken these many years. I’ve purchased new (second hand – thank you Gumtree) speakers, cleaned up his old amp and repaired the turntable to working condition. After years of dust collecting, the Jim Reeves Christmas album, Tijuana Brass and Johnny Horton vinyls are in for a workout!
Our family rule is to only buy something on those terms and if you don’t buy anything at all, that’s fine. My brother buys nothing at Christmas and instead, takes everyone out for a meal. Each person does it their own way and we are all pitching in and making dishes for shared Christmas meals.
Today I am brewing up my traditional gluhwein (mulled wine.. a nod to my children’s German heritage), steaming the pudding (gluten free this year and always vegan) and my famous Christmas crackers. The latter are made with recycled cardboard rolls, ribbons and brown paper and are filled with chocolates, a homemade hat, a joke tailor made for each person (i.e. a lawyer joke for my lawyer sister, a science joke for my environmentalist brother, etc) and a $2 Scratchie. Nobody ever wins more than a couple of dollars.. God knows what would happen if anyone ever hit the jackpot.. I suspect that it would have to be shared amongst the entire family. We are very much into justice and Dad is all about things being fair. Even when I was little and I found four dollars on the beach, he had me share it between me and my three siblings.
And of course, I am styling the table. This year, to avoid the heat, we are opting for a Christmas Eve dinner followed by Midnight Mass at a little stone church around the corner from my house. It will be a sleepover for the entire family followed by a big family breakfast and a lazy Christmas day.
As for the styling, it’s traditional all the way tonight using Mum’s beloved Country Roses dinner set as a base on crisp white linen with red and gold accents and candles aplenty. It will all take place in my garden under fairy lights and vintage chandeliers.
And after Christmas, the fruit will be eaten, the pine branches composted, the stereo enjoyed, the Barrier Reef will hopefully be a little less at risk and the tree baubles will be packed away along with their stories and secrets of the year to come. Proof that Christmas can still be merry, green and oh so pretty!