Christmas is definitely one of my favorite times of the year. It is hard to put it into words but there is something special about the atmosphere of Christmas. I feel a warm and happy feeling well up in my heart when I know it is getting closer, when I see the decorations and hear Christmas songs. I guess this feeling comes from happy childhood memories, and also from the real meaning of Christmas: the celebration of the birthday of Jesus and what, as a Christian, he means to me personally.
I am from Australia and, while the way I celebrate Christmas is different when I am in Japan, it continues to be a very special day for me. In Australia, Christmas is a special event regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, and most people spend the day with their families. It is the biggest national holiday of the year and almost all restaurants and shops are closed. Rather than there being some standard Christmas traditions common to all families, in Australia each family tends to have their own Christmas traditions. In the case of my family, one of our main Christmas traditions is to watch a Christmas concert called `Carols by Candlelight` on TV on Christmas Eve.
We all gather around the TV and enjoy the concert while eating special snacks like chocolate and cherries, and drinking special drinks like sparkling grape juice in our ‘only for special occasions’ red glasses. Some of the performers in the concert are famous opera singers and so on, while others are not-so-well-known celebrities or recent contestants from the many singing competition TV shows popular in Australia like Australian idol. As my family watches the concert, we all, with the exception of my dad, make comments on the singers’ talent (or lack of), fashion sense (or lack of) and any signs of recent plastic surgery, which is also a lot of fun. One song they have on the concert every year is called the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ and this is my dad’s favorite. He always stands up when this comes on to show respect to God (Hallelujah means ‘God be praised’) and I always like to stand up with him. I associate this action so strongly with my Dad that even when I am much older I think I will still always keep doing this out of remembrance for him.
I think an important part of Christmas is the Christmas decorations. I always used to love decorating the Christmas tree and the house with lots of Christmas decorations, especially tinsel. I love tinsel! Basically I love most things that are sparkly and pretty! When I was younger, we used to have a theme for the Christmas tree each year, the most memorable of which was our upside-down Christmas tree! Under the tree goes all the presents and opening these presents is one of the main events on Christmas day. My mum and I often have arguments about the way we should open presents. She is from a big family and she thinks present opening should be chaotic mayhem with everyone opening their presents at the same time. On the other hand, I think presents should be opened one by one so that we can all see what everyone gets and the giver can see and enjoy the receiver’s reaction when they open the present. I think this makes the whole activity far more meaningful and special, although admittedly it can be a bit long at times.
This is a tricky conflict to resolve and sadly at times it has sucked the fun out the activity. After present opening, the next big event is Christmas lunch. Every year without fail mum prepares a super amazing feast for lunch. The menu changes a little each year but basically it is a roast lunch with chicken, beef or turkey (or all three!), lots of roast veggies (e.g. potatoes, sprouts, carrots, pumpkin and so on) and cauliflower gratin, all smothered in thick gravy. My stomach is never big enough to fit in as much as I would like, but it is great to be able to enjoy leftovers later on.
well up (v) – to come up; to fill up to the point of overflowing
contestant (n) – a person who takes part in a contest or competition
associate (v) – connect (someone or something) with something else in one's mind
chaotic (adj.) – in a state of complete confusion and disorder
mayhem (n) – a situation in which there is little or no order or control
leftovers (n) – the food remaining after you have finished eating a meal (usually intended to be eaten at a later time)