It was just yesterday, or that’s how it feels. Nowadays, I only live around the corner from the road where I grew up, a great Australian weatherboard. It was set amid other similar houses on a gravel and dust road. When my sisters and I were children, my late Mum used to play us an LP record. It was called Australian Christmas Carols, or some title like that.
One loved Aussie Christmas carol went like this: “The north wind is tossing the leaves, the red dirt hangs over the town, the sparrows are under the eaves, and the grass in the paddock is brown.”
Even in Melbourne, some Christmas days were like that. “It’s stinking hot!”, my grandfather would tell us, visiting us for Christmas, along with Nanna. Old family saying, “stinking hot!”. The grass in the backyard was indeed brown and the dust from the road hung over the suburb.
It was just yesterday, or so it seems.
The family tradition meant hot roast chicken, with all the trimmings. The kitchen was like a furnace. The meal was served at the dining table, reserved for the ‘best’. We used special crockery and table linen, the ‘best’ cutlery – all kept for Christmas and Mother’s Day. The rest of the year, we ate at the normal kitchen table, using ‘plain’ cutlery and plates.
Christmas Day, or Christmas Eve, was highlighted by the Salvation Army Band marching down the street. The lads, and lassies in their bonnets and ringing tambourines, would stop at the corner. Singing Christmas carols loudly, we gathered around. It was all so politically incorrect, probably banned by workplace health and safety regulations these days. I think the Salvo band gets a guernsey at Carols By Candlelight on the television, not sure.
It was just yesterday, appreciating simple carols and the reason for the festive season. Today’s cherished tradition at Christmas is when Santa swaps his sleigh for a red firetruck in many communities. Siren blaring, Santa distributes lollipops or simple sweets for the children. This continues with Santa fun runs, sorted by local Fire Brigades. The boys and girls in the fire brigades are making Christmas fun, something to cherish. They are making their own happy memories.
These are all part of our community traditions. Our evening Christmas family meal was normally cold meats and sweet favourites like the Christmas cake, cold plum pudding, and special once-per-year treats like coconut ice and chocolate biscuit cake.
All homemade, of course. Each family had its own traditions. Later in life, as lively young marrieds, one Christmas tradition was backyard cricket. The bins were the stumps, it was the days of light-hearted disputes over fours and dismissals, with no umpire. We played on, even though the grass on the lawn was withered and brown.
Our family Christmas traditions had some humour. One junior male relative had a slight hearing impairment when very young. He reached the grand old age of seven years old. Finally, considering Christmas, he asked his mother why there was a baby boy in the manger in her nativity scene, instead of Baby Cheezels, in a nappy. It does help to be Irish in my family! Funnily enough, their family Christmas tradition still welcomes the day with a large platter of Cheezels. Kindly, of course.
Some Christmas days in any part of Australia can be ‘stinking hot’. I am preparing for Christmas again. Things we have to do, like write Christmas cards. This can be a vanishing art form. Things you want to do, celebrate a cherished Christmas, however you wish to appreciate what you think is the reason for this season. Good friends, good family, smiles, simple gifts, happy memories. Then it will seem like a new, “just yesterday”.