BEST OF 2023: This Christmas, I'm looking for the gift of simplicity and peace

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house in evening light

Christmas means home, family and peace. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Year in Review: Region is revisiting some of the best Opinion articles of 2023. Here’s what got you talking, got you angry and got you thinking this year. Today, Genevieve Jacobs shares her thoughts about Christmas.

I’m not a big fan of the commercial Christmas. I don’t like lots of noise and bright lights and I’m positively allergic to windowless shopping malls jammed with anxious people in Santa hats.

Don’t worry – this column isn’t about making your own Christmas presents and swapping homespun beanies over a glass of home-brewed cider (although if that’s your thing, may it bring you joy).

I buy presents, I stress and strain over trying to make everyone happy, I worry about where Christmas is this year and who will cook the meals and I willingly take on the load of doing most of it myself.

Every year there’s a blow-up, minor or major. Someone gets their wires crossed on gifts. When my now grown-up family offered to cook Christmas lunch, that turned out to exclude both turkey and dessert.

And nobody has forgotten the time I followed a Nigella Lawson trifle recipe to the letter, realising only at the first spoonful that there was enough Cointreau to potentially knock my seven-year-old nephew out cold (it must have been around the time of Nigella’s sticky divorce from Charles Saatchi).

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But there’s a moment every year when we sit in our little country church, surrounded by neighbours and friends in their best. Silent Night begins and so do the tears.

It’s a moment of pure simplicity and peace, the moment when I feel Christmas is really here.

Thirty years ago, I brought a baby home at this time of year and walked into church with him in my arms because, unto us, a child had been born.

Outside, harvesters mark lines across paddocks filled with grain in the falling golden light.

After church, the annual Christmas party drinks brings together our big extended family. Someone once counted who you wouldn’t be surprised to see turn up and stopped at 100. There are bowls of cherries from nearby orchards and lawns strung with fairy lights.

Next day, weary farmers will appear scrubbed and clean, their arms tanned below the workshirt line, relaxed for once because we don’t harvest on Christmas Day. And Santa has only very recently stopped visiting our house, where the youngest resident will turn 25 in March.

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The day wears on with cricket on the lawn, the big and little cousins playing together and long, relaxed yarns about days gone by. There will be ham and potato salad for dinner and the Boxing Day test in the morning.

I’m blessed in so many ways. Our families on both sides are close and happy. Despite the usual bust-ups and arguments, we stick together and most of the time, we all like each other.

In 56 years, I’ve never celebrated Christmas anywhere except the house I live in now or the house I grew up in. Christmas to me means peace, family and a deep attachment to home.

You may mark December 25 very differently or not at all. For you, it may mean prawns and champagne, a dip in the ocean or a restaurant lunch. Families break, people are lonely and that can make it very hard indeed to get through the festive season.

But as we’re surrounded by the flashing lights and relentless noise of a commercial Christmas, I wish you all peace, simplicity and, however you define it, a deep sense of being at home.

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davidmaywald5:58 am 03 Dec 23

Merry Christmas to you and your family Genevieve. And thank you to Riotact/Region for the stimulating coverage this year, which increases connection and engagement… With younger children, we are drawn into the commercial and material aspects of gift giving season to an extent. Some of this is excessive and unnecessary, not to mention out-of-touch with circularity and sustainability… Most of my joy during the Aussie summer comes from spending time with family and friends, especially the slower opportunities to converse. There are deep layers of meaning in the Christian stories of the birth of Jesus. Compassion, hope, empathy, service, family, and community. Every year we make an intentional effort to connect with the meaning of Christmas, and to provide value to people outside of our family… I will never forget the Christmas Day that I volunteered to serve food for homeless and disadvantaged people at Wayside Chapel in Sydney. They closed the whole road, had a huge marque, and everyone had a ball. This captured the spirit of Christmas for me, much more than giving material gifts to loved ones.

GrumpyGrandpa11:00 am 02 Dec 23

I used to love Christmas, but sadly, its not quite the same for me now. For the last 6 years, I have been dealing with a health issue that will probably reduce my life expectancy and that in itself creates for me, a fear of missing out (future family milestones and celebrations).

The other issue is that we have no local family in Canberra. Our closest family is a 4 hour drive and they are all in different directions, with our only grandchild about 10 hours away.

When our kids were young, we travelled down a highway every Easter and Christmas and that’s something that is no fun. Something, I don’t want my kids to have to do. Now that I’m retired, I have more time. I’d prefer to do the travelling, to save them doing it, but with family in different directions, it’s nearon impossible to get everyone together, short of a funeral.

I love my family (and extended family) so much and times like Christmas, to me, reminds me of times when we could all be together. I miss my parents. I think a lot of people can relate.

We WILL enjoy Christmas and be with those that we can. We will enjoy our time together and trust that others can also give those who they love an extra special hug.

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