Christmas is a time of mixed feelings for us. When we were kids, Jim and I remembered it being an exciting and magical holiday, mostly likely due to the gifts from Santa and from our parents. But giving was fun too, and as kids that usually meant making something for our parents at school. As adults, it became a time to buy that special gift to show our loved ones how much they mean to us. But above all, Christmas meant visiting with family and friends.
But maybe it’s the times we live in, or simply ‘getting older’ but somewhere along the line, it seems that the magic has given way to pure and frenzied consumerism, especially in Western Christian societies. It now seems only about ‘what to get whom’, and how much we are going to spend on gifts and the size of the present. Instead of ‘warm and fuzzy’ get togethers, social events are instead often tense and attended with feelings of obligation. As you can tell, we’ve become quite jaded by Christmas—some might even say ‘scrouge-like'!
In any case, in our 10 Christmas’ together as a couple, we’ve spent 3 of them overseas while backpacking. Therefore gift-giving (be it for Christmas or otherwise) has never been a part of ‘what we do’. Initially this was due to practical reasons, then it became part of our values, of our general ‘living with less’ way of life. We by and large have what we need, or will have bought it ourselves when a need arose.
Once we settled in Australia, we never did form much of a Christmas tradition for ourselves. We never even put a tree up in our house. For the first few years after the kids were born, this was still the case.
But more and more, as the kids got older and started to ‘get’ Christmas, we too started to feel the magic of Christmas become possible once again. When the kids were ages 4 & 2 respectively, we got our first family Christmas tree (a fresh one) and decorated it together 2 weeks before the big day. The house smelled wonderful. We strung lights on the outside of the house too. And just before Christmas Day, we kept the kids up late so that we could take them around the neighbourhood to see other light displays.
As for what was under our tree itself—well, it was probably pretty bare compared to most people’s that we knew. Each child had one modest gift from the both of us, and a few more from their extended family and friends. And of course, Santa leaves them a few small presents in their stockings as well. Somehow we’ve avoided the ‘wish list’ scenario thus far, so the kids were always surprised and satisfied with whatever they received.
But for me, Christmas in Australia still lacks a certain je n’sais qoi’. Maybe it’s the long days of summer, with the sun not setting until 8:30pm making viewing of Christmas light displays difficult with young children who are usually asleep by then. Or maybe it’s the warm weather and beach outings being incongruent with images of Santa and his reindeer in the North Pole, or with Frosty the Snowman for that matter. Or maybe it’s that people would rather have a Christmas BBQ in the backyard, than to slave inside stuffing and baking a Turkey. In any case, so far Christmas in Australia has somehow been not quite as magical, yet every bit as commercial.
So this year, as part of our ‘big trip’ we will be spending Christmas in Vancouver, Canada with our extended family. (We have celebrated a Christmas there before, but the kids were only 2yrs and 4months old respectively.) I’m really looking forward to ‘getting them into the spirit’ there. They’ve never seen or heard about Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer, or Frosty the Snowman, or The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or a Charlie Brown Christmas for that matter. I remember feeling the excitement build when these shows were on the television.
I also look forward to bringing them on a crisp winter’s evening to see the many Christmas light show displays (it'll be dark by 4:30pm), and also riding the Christmas train, possibly even having a cup of hot chocolate and some freshly roasted chestnuts, with carollers singing traditional Christmas carols in our midst. And of course, we’ll see the extravagant Santa villages at the many shopping malls, with the Big Man himself sitting with a ready knee for boys and girls.
These are some of my fondest memories of Christmas’ gone by. They’ve lasted despite the presents which were received being long forgotten. And this is what I hope our children will experience this Christmas, and to really feel the magical time that it can be, along with feelings of acceptance, belonging and love from the imminent gathering of friends and family.
Yet I also worry how our children will feel being amongst the mass consumerism that has become synonymous with Christmas in a Western country such as Canada, which inevitably results in a mountain of presents under the trees of our family and friends there. I hope that they will continue to appreciate what we already have, and that we don’t need or want for much more. (Not to mention the fact that since we are still backpacking, we also have limited money and space for unnecessary stuff.)
We’ve reassured our kids that Santa will know that we are in Vancouver this year, so he’ll have a little something for them in their stockings there. We just hope that the magic will be enough to counter the materialistic holiday that it has sadly become, in both Australia and in Canada. And hopefully we will all have a Christmas to remember and from which to base future traditions on. This is what we wish this Christmas.
This post has been another group travel inspiration from ‘Families On The Move’. For more perspectives on What’s For Christmas check out these links:
- Bohemian Travelers: Gift Giving While Living A Simpler Life
- Carried On The Wind: Christmas Giving
- Discover, Share, Inspire: Christmas Is Coming, What Do We Give On The Road?
- Edventure Project: On Christmas A Reflection On The Real Gifts
- Family Travel Bucket List: Feliz Navidad Without All The Stuff
- Family Trek: How To Make Christmas Special While Decluttering Your Life
- A King's Life: Forget The Gifts, Give An Experience This Christmas
- Living Outside Of The Box: The Best Christmas Presents
- Little Aussie Travellers: Presence vs Presents, Christmastime For Travelling Families
- A Minor Diversion: Reinventing Christmas
- New Life On The Road: Dear Mr Santa Claus What's For Christmas?
- Peace On Earth: A Different Kind of Christmas