RiotACT business columnist Suzanne Kiraly and her family stopped exchanging Christmas gifts when the children reached their 20s. The family found they had just as much fun with far less stress as a result, though Suzanne has plans to reinstate the gift-giving for any grandchildren that come along.
What I love most about Christmas is the spirit of it all. I read a warm story on a Facebook post by a friend last week, who said that an older gentleman had made some wooden toys and was handing them out to children in a local shopping centre, with no expectation of reward, but rather from the kindness of his heart. She was tickled pink and her son got one. A beautiful gesture in sync with the sentiment of the season.
Another story touched my heart when I saw a woman struggling at the supermarket cash register to pay the full amount for her groceries and as she was madly considering what to put back on the shelves, a gentleman behind her, a stranger, said “she’ll take them all”, and promptly paid the difference to the cashier.
My memories of Christmases with my children when they were little also warm the cockles of my heart (particularly as all three of them are grown up and live overseas now), and those amazing Christmas dinners we had on Christmas Eve (traditionally Europeans celebrate on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day), where we ate too much, drank too much, but most of all we laughed so much!
Finally, the scent of pine in the house – the olfactory senses are the strongest in evoking memories, next to music – it’s magical!
Interestingly, I got an email from Christmas Keng in the first week of December to say that Christmas trees had all sold out. We used to go out to their farm and cut down our own Christmas tree – it was an experience in itself. My boys loved it. But this email conveyed the message that Christmas is truly alive and well – a really comforting feeling after a year of horrendous news from around the world.
What I like least about Christmas is the over-the-top commercialism of it all. It has become far too consumer-oriented and my family (with grown up children), decided we would stop buying presents altogether when they were is their 20s, and you know what? We didn’t miss them at all – we had just as much a good time as we did with presents, without the stress!
Of course, when my children have their own children we will have presents again – they matter for the little ones and the joy of seeing them tear open their presents on Christmas morning is second to none. We have family videos of each year they were growing up and cherish them. There’s a place for nostalgia at Christmas time.
My best ever Christmas was when we lived on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean and came home for Christmas after being away a whole year – we would travel to Singapore, or Hong Kong, or Kuala Lumpur and then fly home to be with family. It meant a lot to us then. We loved living and working overseas on a tropical island, but we did miss the mainland and all it offers.
My favourite Christmas songs are Heal the World (Michael Jackson), Do the Russions Love Their Children Too? (The Beatles), Silent Night (the German version), I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (The Jackson Five), and of course, Feliz Navidad (1970 Jose Feliciano)
My favourite Christmas film is Love Actually – without doubt – from a writing point-of-view, best script ever! Best feel-good movie ever too! Often used to watch the quirky Griswald’s Christmas Vacation movie, just for a laugh.
How I celebrate on Christmas Eve … Now my children are overseas, my mother and I get together and play tourist in her city (Coffs Harbour) and then here in Canberra. It’s a bit of fun. We do a catch-up virtually with all of the children and at least we can laugh and tell stories through the ether. My kids all have an incredible sense of humour and it’s extraordinary how we always manage to tell each other stories and end up laughing until we cry. That’s magic! There is not enough laughter in the world and it’s so good for the soul.
I celebrate on Christmas Day by going to Christmas events that are planned and where others do the cooking. My mother and I do the traditional Christmas Eve dinner together, as usual, then we go to a restarant on Christmas Day for lunch.
On Boxing Day, we generally take it easy – read, sleep and enjoy each other’s company.
The gift I’d most like to give this Christmas is a book for my mum. We are working on her life story which is so very interesting – so I am helping her to get it published. We still don’t buy each other presents, but we do invest in experiences – making memories are the most important things in our lives now. My mum is a young 86!
For Christmas this year I’d like to finish two of the books I am writing. I plan on spending all of my time writing to get them out the door – that is what will make me the happiest. I might buy a book or two myself as well.
Would you like to join the RiotACT team in sharing your thoughts on Christmas with RiotACT readers? We’d love to read them. Please log on to the RiotACT website and choose “create article” to submit your own responses to the My Christmas cues for publication.