Changing Christmas traditions 28



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I can sit back comfortably in my armchair, with my wealth of memories and my rose coloured specs and think to a time when Christmas seemed simple.

The first Christmas times when the austerity of wartime meant all the things were made of shoddy cardboard or tin, due to everything being used in the war effort. Imported dolls were hard to get. Somehow my Mother got me the best she could. It was made in Germany and a rather dark tan, but I loved it. She knitted a perfect little layette for it.

The stuffed stockings on our bed on Christmas mornings had an orange and chocolate in the toe, and lots of fun things, practical objects like new undies or socks were taken out fast to get to the chocolate.

Later when I had my own children I kept up the stocking tradition. I was even crazy enough to carry it on beyond a sensible age, which meant creeping into their rooms after they arrived home from a disco. So I would be lying awake until they were asleep; I must have been mad.

Meals had always been the same as the children grew up. Usually my mother and father shared the day with us, and later my husband’s mother. Traditional turkey was often abandoned for pork or beef, and the lashings of vegetables and trimmings made the meal extra special. If only I could emulate the beauty of the stuffing my mother made, or her wonderful shiny rich puddings, in fact all she did was difficult to duplicate, I think it was made with love, and that matters.

An English winter Christmas had a sense of excitement, perhaps the crisp cold air, the warmth of fires, the fuggy feeling of a kitchen steamed up with cooking, or just going out for a carol singing on a starry dark night. The sound of church bells echoing in the snowy fields, something happens that is indefinable, making a Winter Christmas a totally unique experience.

Yet now I love my Australian Christmas times. I have welcomed them and love the time of year. Most of all I love the light. The days are long, the evenings drift into twilight with the sounds of birds and insects, bees buzzing.

So what was my first impression? The first Christmas we had been here only a month or two. I was working two hours travel from our home at Patterson Lakes. So I spent a lot of time on trains and trams as I worked for a Jewish day centre for the elderly in Prahran. I had some steep learning curves, language, traditions, transport – luckily I learn fast.

So first of all I wondered why everyone was ‘breaking up’, then I knew it was a party at the end of work. I was fascinated when all the women wore really wild Christmas earrings. In England only the young wore them; here everyone did. I learned how to say ‘You are not wrong’, and ‘Flat out like a lizard drinking’; I was amazed at the gifts people gave each other at work. So much more than we had done for work colleagues in the UK. I learned how to stop breathing for a while when my head was jammed up an armpit on the tram. The heat was around 40 degrees that December. I was the only idiot who went for a walk, and wondered why the road was empty.

Fashion in 1987 was very different, Ken Done was really popular, and I wore some whacky and wild designs myself around then. I just loved the colour around me, and the fact that at this time of year you bought a swimsuit and shorts or new beach towels for the children. We went to pool parties and work parties, the two girls who ran the centre with me did their own version, and on the last day as we saw the clients off, we sat out in the warm garden in Eastbourne Street and drank cheap champagne. Yes, I embraced my new life, new traditions and a different way of celebrating Christmas. Being adaptable is an art, luckily I welcome change.


Were you like Jacqui and had grown up with different traditions that changed when you migrated to Australia? Tell us about it below.

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. Brings back memories. There still is not anything to rival Mum’s Chrissie cake or pudding. No one makes a sherry trifle quite like she does. The delight of a Christmas stocking read sock. Wonderful memories. Merry Christmas to you and yours

  2. I am Australian and have always had the same “type” of Christmas. I guess I remember traditional differently. Our tradition was the pillow case. We didn’t have stockings, but most everything except one big present was put in thew pillow case. When I was young we always had lunch with my Nanna and couldn’t wait ti find the sixpences in the pudding. She was a wonderful cook. As I got older and, the tradition every year s she passed away, it seemed to be lunch with Mum and Dad. Dad always ended up drunk and someone always ended up in a fight. I made my own tradition, it was for kids. We have pork and ham and pavlova and pudding and fruit mince pies. That’s what Christmas is about. If you want to get drunk, go somewhere else. I always gave them a stocking filled with little goodies and the usual stuff. I always had a present from Mum and Dad and one from Santa under the tree. My kids are grown now and I still have a stocking for them if they are home – and I still creep into their rooms. It’s just me and one child today. I will keep the tradition going as long as there is someone to enjoy it with. Merry Christmas everyone.

    1 REPLY
    • My dad drank a lot at Christmas so when I had children we made it about kids and my daughters and there families all get together as well as good friends.making better memories for our children and grandchildren

  3. Lovely memories . I had a shock when we came to Australia , for our first Christmas still can’t get use to it , being warm or hot , merry Christmas

  4. Mike here-never had much truck with Christmas but have to say that the air of other peoples excitement in Europe where I grew up was greater.

  5. Ria here – We had our traditional Christmas last night as in Austria onChristmas Eve. The children love both traditions, ours and the Aussie’s one. We have pork, ham, oysters kilpatric, prawns, potato, cucumber, tomato salads and pavlova, walnut strudel and six pence in chocolate cupcakes ( children and grands don’t like x mas pudding) so I make cup cakes. Still lots of fun. I combine both traditions and we all love it. It is different from Europe and I remember my first x-mas here, what a shock but soon enjoyed the party’s and the beach. I have spent a few Christmases in Vienna since and love the cold and Christmas markets and the sincerity of it but give me a party any day. Merry Christmas to all

  6. My daughter makes a beautiful trifle and they buy a pavlova and she decorates it.The daughter in law did it last year in ACT. Aust. .and this time it is at daughter’s house 10 mins away and on 23rd at 3.50 am Our gret grand daughter Kiana(Kehanah) Louise was born and I lived to see her picture 10’mins after her birth.We should be there but I have been fighting for my life since Dec.3rd.when minor surgery went wrong. Never make plans too early .Stll here for approx 3 moreweeks but I am going to survive.

    4 REPLY
    • It’s good you have such a strong attitude so look forward to Easter with the family so take care you will be in my prayers to night

    • It sounds as though you are slowly winning Wendy. Three and a half weeks is almost a month and then you will be in the second month.
      I certainly do hope so for both you and yours.
      My thoughts….

  7. Like Jackie, I grew up during the war when things were so hard to come by, but as young children we appreciated everything that Santa brought. Christmas in Australia was so different, it did take a while to get used to salads etc for lunch instead of the huge roasts, but now as long as we have family and friends around us it just is Christmas

  8. Although I sort of grew up with a cold Christmas (I left England when I was 14) we had an Aussie style Christmas with seafood, salads etc etc while my kids were growing up. Then, 22 years ago, my daughter married an Irishman who loves his traditional Christmas regardless of the temperature. Now we have the turkey and all the trimmings. I go over every Christmas morning for the present opening and there’s always something there for each of us from Santa (apart from presents to each other) and my grandkids still have a Christmas stocking each even though they’re 20,18 and 17. We have a BBQ breakfast with friends and then Christmas dinner in the evening.

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