Christmas vs. Summer…

As we approach Christmas, I tried to explain to a friend today why Christmas is a secondary thing for our family. That summer is actually the extraordinary and much anticipated time of the year. I think I failed to make any impression at all! So I’ll try and explain here … with the initial explanation that whilst we understand the age-old message of Christmas, we are not, nor ever have been a religious family.

My grandfather bought a large slab of land in a little seaside village, way way back in the day .(It’s the land almost left of the middle,  just back off the ocean beach.) By the time I was born, we would have Christmases of 17 and 18 family members, with cousins and aunts and uncles. Wonderfully wild and noisy events with beautiful food cooked by my grandmother, my great aunt and my mother and her two sisters on a wood-fired stove. I remember the complete and utter exhaustion on their faces at the end of it all with no automatic ovens, no dishwashers, no coffee machines, and the post-war austerity attitude still alive.

Eventually, the offspring (myself included) began to marry and produce more offspring and so we had a mini diaspora. Christmas became confined to respective families’ seaside cottages. BUT… still spread over the same slab of land and so we all still saw each other. Our kids all grew up together over their school holidays and now they are adult and, in some cases, with kids of their own. It’s a big clan and whilst the area isn’t exactly like a Kennedy compound, we are all within cooee of each other. We sometimes party together through the summer days and we have a huge tradition  that we keep alive.

Simply it is loving the ocean. The beach. Boats.

When we were children, we’d literally bolt our Christmas dinner to get out to the beach and have fun. And Boxing Day became the REALLY important day – the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race start on TV, picnics away on boats, swimming – THE best time ever!

Swallows and Amazons reborn.

For my husband who was a country lad in Victoria, it was all much the same. Christmas dinner on the farm with Granny cooking dinner in a fuel stove on a stinking hot day, then frantic trips into Melbourne after dinner for rather spectacular Cousins’ Get-Togethers and even more food. After that, it was country fun, summer, stock-work, hay-carting, building cars, Billabong Adventures … Christmas was a mere blip on the radar.

Currently my husband and I are very fortunate. Our loved adult kids are close by. We see them every day, every week. Getting together at Christmas doesn’t have the impact that it would for those whose families live interstate or overseas.

We open presents early in the morning with a glass of whatever bubbles tickle our fancy and with homemade jam and croissants. Son might go fishing, daughter will read. I might go for a kayak and a walk with the dog whilst lunch is in the oven.

We  reconvene for a late lunch, (to which I’ve been slowly adding new recipes with fresh ingredients and trying to leave the old turkey behind. Saying goodbye to the hot Christmas Pud and filling the table with delicious trifles, with berries and with a frozen Christmas pudding.)

After lunch, husband and self tidy the kitchen  whilst adult kids disappear to visit cousins and friends, all close by. By Christmas night, plans have been made for the summer. It may be lazing the days away, it may be fishing, boating or swimming but whatever the case, it will be by and of the ocean. For us, Christmas Day is like a red ribbon being cut, launching summer with gusto, our eyes are firmly fixed on Boxing Day and what’s to come.

There’s only one change in our lives now. We have a grandchild. A munchkin who is obviously going to view Christmas from a child’s eyes. We will respond accordingly.

In any event, and with tree decorated, presents purchased and wrapped, and food all ready, all I can say is…

…roll on summer!!!!!!!