It’s already December and by now in Canada the Christmas decorations are up, the Christmas lights strung across rooftops everywhere, and the happy Holidays music would be broadcasted from public sound systems everywhere. The temperatures will have dropped and everyone will be hoping for a beautiful white Christmas. You can’t help but feel the Christmas season as it’s everywhere. But I don’t live in Canada anymore, I live in Australia where things are just done differently.
A few Christmas decorations dot the city, though here in Surrey Hills, my little Melbourne suburb looks ever the same. No Christmas music plays on Triple J national radio that wakes me up in the morning. Work is still decorating the space with the latest product launches, and it gets dark so late this close to summer solstice I’ve been home before sunset every night and haven’t noticed any lights. I am sure the malls and the shopping areas of the city are all decked out inside with decorations, holiday music and all the holiday sales, but I haven’t had time to begin my shopping. It just doesn’t feel like the Christmas season yet in Melbourne. Like everyone else I am excited that it’s finally summer, and the holidays are near. Sam and I will have two weeks off work, and my thoughts these days are more towards weeding my garden, evening walks through fragrant jasmine neighbourhoods, and upcoming BBQ’s and picnics in flower filled parks with friends.
Sam announced the other day that the family Christmas gathering will be held on December 28th. Why December 28th, I asked? We had the family get together after Christmas last year too! I found myself feeling disappointed and a bit upset by this news. How strange it is that his brothers and sisters just seem to always have other plans on Christmas Day and we will be spending yet another Christmas Day home alone, with only each other. Christmas Day with my family back in Canada was such an important day, all the family would come over either just before Christmas or throughout the day itself, even those few who didn’t have a family to celebrate with were invited over. No one was ever left out. It was the one day on the calendar we all came together and as a child it was the most special day of the year because of it. The past 10 years I have rarely been home for Christmas, but my family still includes me in their own way, and they always feel my absence. I felt confused that Sam’s family didn’t seem to feel the same way about Christmas Day as mine, especially as they are such a close family.
Sam the calm and patient person that he is, reminded me that his family didn’t actually start celebrating Christmas until they immigrated to Australia back in the 1970s. Being an Australian holiday, and one which everyone was off work and school, the family picked up the Christmas spirit and started to celebrate their own way, by having a day together as a family, to eat spit roast like Australians do, give a few presents to the kids, and play a good game of Mahjong. Now that Sam and his siblings are all grown up and married with their own kids, and in-laws, they each celebrate Christmas a little differently now, but the getting together of the family for one day over the holidays to celebrate the way they have since they first landed on Australian soil has withstood time and still remains the same. Sam said Christmas Day has never had the strong meaning to his family as it has for Australians or Canadians. What does have meaning is family, and so to his family, the date itself is not important, making the effort to come together during the holidays is. So on Christmas Day, Sam’s brother takes his family to church, Sam’s sister spends it with the in-laws. And when there are no chess tournaments, or choir practices or musical performances, they take that day when they are all free, and they come together to spend it as a family, year after year.
I realized that Sam is right. Yes traditionally Christians celebrated Christmas on December 25th as it was the day they celebrated Jesus’s birthday. And before that Pagan’s celebrated their own festivities on December 25th. But in this day and age, Christmas has lost it’s traditional meaning to so many including myself. It has become to me and my family about family as it has for Sam’s family, so why am I so hung up on the actual date? Why does the actual date have to be so adamantly celebrated when family is so much more important than a day on a calendar? Is it because society does it and therefore so must I? Is it because of tradition and history that has locked itself firmly into place? I need to stop getting so stuck on the date and just appreciate the fact that I am marrying into a family that values family so strongly that it makes an effort year after to year to come together as a whole family over the holidays for one day, to spend time with each other, to value each other, and get their butts kicked at Mahjong by dad.
So this year on December 28th, after Sam and I get back from a short trip to Sydney, we will all come together as a family. The kids will open their presents, there will be a spit roast over a backyard fire, it’s juices dripping into hot flame and hissing when it lands. Dad will turn into a Mahjong-eer slotting tiles together in a series of “Kong’s” and “Pong’s” of high score brilliance, draining us of our multi-coloured chips. The kids will draw, play the piano, and play kiddie games both inside and out, the cameras will be clicking and filming away, and just like every year, the whole family will have a special day. There will be cuddles, kisses and hugs, and lots of love, and the excitement of knowing we will all come together again in another month as Chinese New Year comes early in 2012.
Linked up at Free Write Fridays.