In ‘Merry Christmas: Part 1’ I wrote about Christmas being one of my favorite times of the year. Yesterday I heard a Christmas carol for the first time this year and I felt the warm, happy and calming feelings of Christmas well up in my heart again. It really is a special time of the year and I love the fact that, even though I am far from my country and family, thanks to the beautiful Christmas trees and decorations, Christmas music and special light displays around Japan, I can still get into the Christmas mood.
Let me tell you a little more about the way I celebrate Christmas in Australia. In part one, I wrote about watching Carols by Candlelight on TV with my family on Christmas Eve, and opening presents and having an amazing Christmas lunch on Christmas day. Other than the super tasty feast my mum prepares for us, another highlight of lunch is opening the Christmas bon bons (Christmas crackers). I am not sure if you have Christmas bon bons in Japan but basically they are like a long cylindrical bow made out of nicely colored cardboard. Bon bons are used both as a way to decorate the table for Christmas (one bon bons is placed on the table in front of where each person sits) and also as an activity during lunch. To open a bon bon, one person holds one end and another person holds the other and they both pull in opposite directions. The bon bon opens with a bang and inside there is usually a silly paper crown, some rather useless plastic toy and a very, very lame joke to read out to everyone at the table. Bon bons are just a bit of silly fun really, but a nice part of the day.
What we do after lunch differs depending on the year, but watching a movie together is probably the most common activity. Sometimes we might play some board games or table tennis on our old table tennis table. In the evening we almost always go to my aunt and uncles house for a light dinner and dessert. While it does depend on the year, normally my family, my aunt and uncle and their three kids and a few other relatives are there. Dinner generally consists of a salad platter with cold roast chicken, cherry tomatoes and blocks of cheddar cheese, all on a layer of lettuce. I love cheese so much that I think I often take a little more than my fair share…! Dessert often consists of cake, trifle (a dessert made with fruit, cake, jelly and cream etc.) and other tasty goodies. We all chat over dinner and dessert and, as I don’t see my relatives that often, it is a great opportunity to catch up.
In addition to spending lots of time together and eating lots of tasty food, as a family we have a few other traditions that connect especially with the real meaning of Christmas. One is our ‘Happy Birthday Jesus’ envelope – a paper envelope that we all put some money into to donate to a charity that we all agree on. It is just a small gesture but I think it is a really nice way to remember that Christmas is actually a birthday party and, by giving money to a cause that helps people who are in need, we can give a present to the birthday boy: Jesus. Another tradition is to invite someone to spend Christmas with us. In Australia, Christmas is very much a time to spend with family, so it can be a really hard time for those who don’t have family, don’t have a good relationship with their family, or are far from their family and so on. We don’t do this every year, but having someone outside our family spend Christmas with us has been a special part of many Christmases, especially when I was a child.
I hope this gives you some nice insight into how I spend Christmas in Australia!
well up (idiom) – come up or arise
cylindrical (adjective) – having straight parallel sides and a circular or oval cross-section; in the shape or form of a cylinder
silly (adjective) – playfully lighthearted and amusing
differ (verb) – to change from time to time or from one instance to another
fair share (idiom) – all that one deserves, expects, or is entitled to, whether that be a good or a bad thing
insight (noun) – an accurate or deep understanding