Christmas! When I was a child that word held so much excitement and promise. It was rich with tradition and expectation. It started weeks before the actual day, with the arrival of what seemed to have been hundreds of Christmas cards which were opened, passed around for reading and then displayed on the venetian blinds in the loungeroom.

Christmas gift opening
Christmas 1950’s style and an excited gift recipient.

Then there was the 15 mile (24 kilometre) drive into the nearest village for Midnight Mass. I’m not sure how I slept after that – so excited to see what was under the tree for me. My older siblings will tell you that I (the youngest) was spoilt; I probably was, but there was just one present each as Mum & Dad spread the love around the seven of us. The presents were piled under a real tree which was selected and chopped down by Dad or one of my brothers. In the heat of the day the waft of pine was just lovely.

Then there were the aromas from the kitchen as Mum cooked the turkey in the wood stove oven. No matter how hot the weather; an unlucky turkey was selected, killed, plucked and cooked to delicious perfection. That was after Christmas cake and pudding had long been made. There was hard sauce to go with the pudding and of course it was full of silver coins (my only interest in the pudding, it was way too rich for my palate).

Over the years Christmas has for me morphed into new and flexible traditions. Single until well into my 40’s, I spent many a Christmas with my elder sister’s family and her children and grandchildren continued to add the special energy that only a small child can. Latterly, Rowan has also become part of that tradition although, with those great nieces and nephews now mostly off living their own lives, this tradition too has passed.

Christmas at Wongarbon
A relaxed family Christmas in the garden.

I have also shared an adult only Christmas on more than one occasion and had a wonderful day. One memorable year some Jewish friends hosted a ‘Jews and Rejects’ Christmas lunch and we shared good food and wine and many a laugh. More recently, Rowan and I hosted Christmas in our home. We started our day with a delicious breakfast and some champagne, then had friends arrive for lunch. The six of us (two couples and two men who were at a loose end) shared the meal preparation and again enjoyed the day very much.

Rowan has less focus on Christmas than me, having spent a few alone, and we now have a ‘blended’ family where our Grandson has six grandparents, this year means we will see him and his parents immediately after Christmas. For us this year, Christmas will be in the Blue Mountains with family friends and we know we are in for a special treat. We could feel miserable that we won’t be with our family of birth, but we have a broad attitude to ‘family’ and love those we choose to spend that special time with.

Other aspects of Christmas have changed for us too. Last year, inspired by friends, we didn’t send Christmas cards (with a couple of exceptions). Instead we calculated our expenditure over previous years and donated to The Smith Family’s Learning for Life program. We then let our friends know of our decision and donation. We will do the same this year.

Rowan and I also don’t give each other Christmas gifts. Neither of us needs anything and we both love to travel, so instead we put aside some dollars in our travel account. That allows us to have a special and memorable treat when we are away from home and for us that has greater value. We do however buy gifts for others.

Christmas at Mallacoota
Starting Christmas Day off right with champagne.

No matter where we spend Christmas or with whom, there is one tradition that endures and that is delicious food and good wine. Often too, we have chosen special gourmet treats and wines for hard to buy for friends and family. Last month we were fortunate to be invited by Brand Meets Blog to meet a group of other bloggers and to sample some goodies from Australian Gourmet Gifts. We tasted treats both savoury and sweet and of course a little wine to sweeten the experience. We were very impressed by the range and quality of gourmet goodies available in these hampers and immediately had a list of possible recipients of a hamper this Christmas. If you have a foodie or two to buy for why not check out the offerings. Or give yourself a break and make Christmas lunch easy by augmenting your cooking with some ready to go starters and sweet treats.

So, tell us. Are your feelings about Christmas happy or perhaps tinged with sadness? Do you have firm traditions that endure or have you become flexible with your celebration style over the years? What is your favourite/least favourite part of Christmas?