December 30, 2012

I'm dreaming of a Wet Christmas

Am I the only person this side of the equator who rugged up in a big woolly cardigan and ugg boots on Christmas day?

I had imagined we would spend Christmas afternoon on the beach, as we usually do, running quickly on tippy toes across hot sand to the cool spot where the waves fizz out on the shoreline and snoozing sporadically under the shade of our beach umbrella, a few ham sandwiches chilling in the esky and the kids digging holes to China in the wet sand.

Instead, we put Francesca to bed, snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and some fruitcake, and watched movies while the rain pelted down outside. Did I say pelted? I mean pelted, bucketed and poured from the sky. Rain, rain and more rain. Flowing like tequila at a hen's night.

And it was lovely.

This Christmas was always going to be different, our first without John's mum, our beloved matriarch who passed away in March. The rest of the extended family were scattered around the country, hunkering down in their own family units. We were happy to hunker. The weather was perfect for hunkering.

We had a big dinner on Christmas Eve with family and a few friends, our giant timber dining table groaning on it's railway sleeper legs under turkey, ham and all the other usual gastronomic suspects. I made a coconut and brown sugar pavlova and our friend Susie made a batch of wicked chocolate ice cream and some white chocolate champagne sponge cakes. We were sitting out on the deck when the rain started drumming  on the tin roof overhead; it was going to be a wet old night for Santa and the reindeer to be going about their business.

Our mornings always start with a 6 on the clock due to early rising offspring and Christmas morning was no different. We let the kids open one present each and an early morning bike ride in search of a swing, a surf and a coffee seemed in order. We are fortunate in that the local bakery is owned by some friendly neighbourhood Cambodians whose religion doesn't include an immaculate conception and a home birth attended by shepherds, and therefore have no problem making we Christian folk a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant on Christmas morning.

But because I actually do think that it's important to acknowledge and celebrate the real reason for Christmas, off to 8am mass we went. I love the Christmas Day service, not least of all because one gets to sing Christmas hymns unabashedly at the top of one's voice. But it's also a beautiful time to reflect on the year ahead. Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrates a new life.

New life.

To me that means we all get another chance. To live gracefully. To love fully. To forgive wholeheartedly, including ourselves. To be the best possible person we can be. That's what I reflected on as I belted out Silent Night and tried to stop Francesca from licking the coins for the collection plate.

I usually get a little bah-humbug and nervy around Christmas. I think it's the general sense of being overwhelmed - trying to choose the perfect gifts for everybody, making sure I remember everyone and stashing away a few extra generic gifts to reciprocate unexpected gifts from someone else, negotiating menus and grocery lists for the big day, and the night before and the day after when all the supermarkets will be closed - it all leaves me feeling a bit short of breath and jittery. I blame the mall. I once got stuck in the car park at the local shopping mall for 45 minutes, unable to find a free space and unable to leave. In my nightmares I'm the fourth wise man who can't find a spot to park my camel in crowded Bethlehem and baby Jesus leaves town without my gift of tinned shortbread.

I'm kidding. Sort of. I do get overwhelmed and nervous though. By December 24th I'm desperately seeking Christmas, determinedly humming carols while wrapping presents and trying to find the Christmas spirit in the faces of Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic as they host Carols by Candlelight on the TV. Every year I feel I have to hunt Christmas down and wrestle it to the ground, pinning it down and sucking the spirit out of it by force.

It always come to me eventually though, the spirit. Usually when the TV and all the lights are off, except those of the slowly blinking Christmas tree, and I'm writing messages of love and hope on the cards for my children and husband. The stillness, the specialness, of Christmas creeps up on me then and wraps itself around me and I realise I didn't need to chase it down after all.

This year, with all of its strange difference to Christmases past - no big trip to the family heartland in Melbourne, no Dorothy, no massive lunch to prepare - was certainly calmer in the lead up, but I still had to wait for the spirit to come to me. This year, however, I decided to let it in without the mad chase.

How was your Christmas? Do you feel the same as me or are you simply bursting with Christmas spirit from the moment those chocolate coins appear in Coles? If the latter, tell me your secret. I'll pay you. In chocolate coins.

Here's our Christmas in pictures:

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