by Elizabeth Squire
As a child I always had difficulty deciding what my most favourite day of the year was… my birthday, or Christmas Day. After all, a birthday is that one day of the year that is your own special day—you get presents, you get cake, and everyone serenades you (albeit slightly off-key) with a song dedicated just to you.
And then there is Christmas—a time of magic and mysticism… and presents. But, as I grew older, Christmas emerged as a time of year steeped in tradition.
During my early childhood my family and I lived in the remote Western Australian mining town of Dampier. The town, surrounded by the islands of the Dampier Archipelago, was cooled by the Indian Ocean on one side, and baked by the relentless heat of the Pilbara at its back door. Being an isolated community, Christmas became a time where the township came together to celebrate as one, and the traditions were as unique as the red dirt and iron ore dust that the town was known for. My most favourite memories are of those years where old Saint Nicholas arrived at the company Christmas party seated in the bucket of an enormous front-end loader, or a fire truck, or a helicopter—his mode of conveyance was different each year, and it was as far removed from the traditional reindeer and sleigh as you could possibly imagine! Meanwhile, Christmas day would commence with a baked ham and champagne breakfast and continue with visits to and from neighbouring families.
After we left Dampier, our family moved to Barraba, a town in rural New South Wales where families have lived and farmed the land for generations. Each Christmas eve, children, parents, cousins, distant-cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents would assemble around a Christmas tree in the main street and await the arrival of Santa and his enormous sack of presents in the town’s fire truck. No matter whether you lived in town, or on one of the outlying farms, the event was a highlight on the local social calendar that very few people missed. Somewhere along the way our family began inviting friends over to share homemade fried rice and marinated chicken wings for dinner on Christmas eve – it was a dish easily prepared in advance, and quickly served on our return home from the Christmas tree. Our tradition of commencing Christmas day with a baked ham and champagne breakfast continued.
Now, as we travel the world, either for holiday or work, we collect Christmas ornaments—each ornament represents a special moment in our lives and as we decorate the tree we reflect on where we were and the fun we were having at that time.
And, while I am no longer living in a community that gathers under a Christmas tree on Christmas eve, we have a new tradition of walking through the streets of our neighbourhood to enjoy the light displays and nativity scenes that adorn the front lawns of our neighbours houses.
What I have learnt is that even if your traditions don’t align with most peoples’ perceptions of what a Christmas tradition should be, they are the bonds that bring families and communities together, and they are the anchor to hold on to when all else is unfamiliar.
‘It Happened One Christmas’ is a collection of short Christmas stories written by the Canberra Romance Writers group.
These stories traverse the Christmas traditions of Regency England, to the dust and heat of a traditional Australian Christmas. But regardless the setting, each story is bound by the familiar traditions of family, celebration, love—and just a little mayhem! ‘It Happened One Christmas’ is available from:
Amazon: It Happened One Christmas or Amazon Australia: It Happened One Christmas