What does Christmas mean to you and your family? What is your Christmas cultural identity? What habits and rituals have you developed with your family? How do we combat consumerism and open ourselves up for more kindness and giving?
This year my extended family have suggested that in place of our usual Kris Kringle that we instead pick a person to nominate a charity of their choice and we can all donate to that cause. I could not be happier with this suggestion. It unifies us as a family, while doing good for those in need and it is plastic free. It also opens up discussion for which charities mean the most to those who you love. (If you are unsure of where to start, go to my previous blog about Effective Altruism )
AN AUSTRALIAN CHRISTMAS
Where I live could not be further from your traditional imagery of a white Christmas. We live in a remote area in the middle of Australia. The eccentricity of our town is that there is a mass exodus from the searing desert heat in summer to go and visit families in cooler climates. For the last ten years or so we have been travelling overseas at this time of year, or we have joined in the Christmas festivities with our families on the east coast, going with the flow of how our they choose to celebrate. This year we are staying home. With our 2 year old girl. As the town goes into lock down; the final shops, cafes, bars and restaurants shut down till February, we are left here to decide for ourselves what Christmas means to our little family and what traditions we choose to inherit from our families and what habits and rituals we will introduce. Over ten years ago I fondly remember Christmas in Alice Springs where the usually dry river bed started to flow. We rode our bikes from one party to the next eating…you guessed it prawns on the bbq, drinking Mango daiquiris and swimming in the river. As a result I think my Christmas’s in Alice will always include Mangoes.
What was your Christmas like? What traditions do you dismiss and which ones bring back a fond nostalgia. Which traditions have you taken from your family and will continue with your children? What new traditions will you form?
ADAPTING AND MAGIC
How do you celebrate Christmas in a secular way? Do you still celebrate Christmas even though you have a different religious or cultural background? If so how?
As part of our jobs we have been employed to create magic and joy in the form of Christmas Concerts. We have spent a few Christmas’s on a remote indigenous community in Yolngu country where although not part of their culture Christmas is still celebrated through community revelry. At first we grappled with teaching students who speak English as their second language, the old fashioned lyrics to Jingle Bells which had no context culturally or geographically, to the hot, humid and tropical place they live in . As we were breaking down the verses, trying to even decipher the meanings in an English context; “What does bells on bobtails mean?” we quickly realised that the kids don’t care, they just want to sing Jingle Bells at the top of their lungs all together and shout “Hey” and it is so much fun! This is a place where when an indigenous Santa came out to distribute presents, the local kids asked where is the real Santa, yet a giant puppet buffalo with a glowing red nose took the place of Rudolph without question. Giant puppets from local dreamtime stories and songs and dancing in language were also celebrated in the concert. A mishmash Christmas full of joy, singing, dancing and laughter.
TRADITIONS OLD AND NEW
We don’t have a Christmas tree yet. However I visited some friends last night who do and they explained the magic of this tradition and what it means for them. Each year since their now 4 year old was born they have been making homemade decorations as a family to go on the tree. Each year is an opportunity to make something together as a family and also go over the memories created together. When we visited, their 4 year old was pretty ecstatic to light up the Christmas tree and have us all around singing and telling stories together. An intimate warmth. A moment in time shared. I get it.
So here are three traditions we are looking at creating for our family. I think it will be interesting to read back on this in a few years and see how cultural norms from our little girls friends, from our extended family, our community and other influences will affect our rituals.
- Kindness Elves™ a lovely idea created by a mother of four and a teacher who wanted to keep the magic of Christmas while teaching gratitude and kindness:
2. Here is a song we are learning so that we can sing along each Christmas: You Tube ukulele tutorial for jingle bells
3. I’m gonna have a crack at this this year and see if it becomes a family tradition: Recipe for mango pavlova
CHRISTMAS VERSUS CONSUMERISM
I am not much into the word frugal; it instantly conjures the idea of miserly, scrooge like behaviour. However I heard this program on the radio this morning and found it an interesting discussion: The Art of Frugal Hedonism RN. Towards the end of the interview the gist is about how much stress and pressure we can put on ourselves to make Christmas happen, when instead we could be spending the time relaxing and enjoying time with those we love.
PRESENTS Vs PRESENCE
I think the whole present frenzy certainly can add to stress and consumerism and also the buying of unnecessary things. I value the gift of experiences, quality over quantity and presence instead of presents.
I found this article very interesting and worth taking into consideration. The gift of death about the unnecessary consumerism and the impact this has to the environment and humanity. It is however a bleak outlook and we can digest this information while still creating some magic without the expense to other people or the earth, over this holiday period.
Here are 3 links to alternate Christmas gift ideas. I’m not saying I love them all, but I definitely love some of them.
- 100 DIY Christmas gifts in this collection is a innovative tech travel organiser. I hate tangled cords and losing that external drive in the depths of my bag. Brilliant, and practical!
2. Plastic Free Christmas All of it. Good on you Regan Jade!
And because Christmas is just around the corner here is a link to some last minute ideas:
3. Last minute ideas I like the kids fort. I love creating experiences as gifts. One Christmas we held a disco in our camper van for all our nieces and nephews, we pulled out all the stops, bubble machine, disco lighting, karaoke and dress ups as well as a few treats! They still talk about it!
Or support local artists and craftspeople at places like this designers collective in Melbourne: Our Little Caravan
What do you do re: Santa? I would particularly love to hear about those who don’t do Santa.
I am not so concerned about the “lie” of Santa as I have great memories myself of the magic of Santa and leaving out a Cookie and Beer. I also believe that at an early age fantasy engages the imagination. On one hand I love that Santa can stop a nation (well a few nations actually) and as a community we can engage in the magic of Christmas together. On the other hand I really dislike the perpetuation of a myth that has long lost any true significance to our current culture and has instead been used to encourage mass consumerism. For me the answer lies in adapting what Santa means for my little family. He may have the kindness elves to help.
Here is a great post: Is it okay to lie about Santa? with input from a Professor of Paediatrics and Psychiatry and also some parents’ experiences. The first comment is great too about telling the truth from the start about “the real Saint Nicholas”. Although I believe some artistic licence is valid to perhaps omit some questionable historical elements and include the good parts about a lovely altruistic old fellow.
Here are some endearing letters to children from parents when asked if Santa is real. Heart warming letters to explain Santa to kids.
I guess what is most important and I’m sure you will all agree is to hold our loved ones tight and enjoy the simple things. Happy Christmas.
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