I won’t deny it – as a child, the best thing I knew about Christmas was the presents. Every year we dressed the house, trimmed the tree and got our Christmas season off to a great start. Being brought up with two differing religious opinions meant that the true meaning of Christmas was present but not overwhelming. Our family has always been one where personal choice reigns supreme; we support each other in the way we choose to live our lives and while we share opinions openly, we never try to force each other (or anyone else) to change their opinion or approach to suit our own (even when we ARE correct…).
And so each year passed in a similar fashion; I tried to be good, failed on numerous occasions and succeeded on others. I tried new things, found new interests, disinterests, strengths and weaknesses. And at Christmas time came the decision-making. Would it be a request for a puppy? The latest Star Wars action figure or A-Team lunchbox? Some calligraphy pens and ink or a book that would teach me how to draw dinosaurs and cartoons? Had I been good enough to earn a cassette player or clock-radio? Only Santa knew for sure. Every year was a lottery, and some years were jackpots!
To increase the excitement of Christmas Day, we didn’t always put the gifts in the same place. Sometimes they were found beneath the tree; other years we would find them at the foot of our beds or they were brought to us by our parents after we’d all gathered together, excited and hopeful about what we might have been awarded for our behaviour throughout the year. We also celebrated Christmas in numerous locations, which added another element of variety to the holiday. With relatives and family friends scattered along the east coast of Australia, our Christmasses were sometimes spent with aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, grandparents and other relatives in cities ranging from tropical Cairns to metropolitan Sydney and Melbourne or in the farmlands of Tasmania, where it was cold enough to warrant a morning fire.
While many things changed from year to year with our family Christmas, one thing remained constant. Every year without fail we were wide awake and ready to rock at or before sunrise. If our presents weren’t already at the foot of our beds, we’d sneak out of our rooms and head towards the living room, eager to see what awaited us beneath the tree. We’d want to start opening the presents immediately of course, but on some occasions we were ordered back to bed by our tired parents who, after a night of wrapping presents (or building bicycles) were aching for just another hour of rest before the onslaught of three over-excited children began.
And every Christmas I still wake up at 6am. Nowadays it’s to help prepare for the day – to spend a little time with my parents before starting the checklist of food, gifts, swimwear and towels (for the pool of course!) and anything else that we need to bring with us if we’re having Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law or with one of our other relatives in town. The years have brought many changes to our Christmas but I’ll always wake up at 6, full of excitement about being able to share the day with people I love.
On the sixth day of Christmas, the Season gave to me…
Six AM wake-up
Five days off
Four airborne hours
Three fresh breaths
Two swimming pools
and a trifle made for the Family