This year I’m calling it X-mas, and not just because it's easier to spell. This year, in contrast to all other years, I’m really noticing the inconsistencies and gross incongruities of it all: the reindeer, the cheery over-dressed fellow handing out presents, the Christian nativity story which, to tell the truth, I never really re-examined since I learned it for the play we did at kindy: a bearded man leads his donkey and his wife down the main street of Bethlehem, they are refused accommodation by two innkeepers before the third one lets them sleep out in the shed; then we see a star and three wise men travelling across the desert, and when we look back to Joseph and Mary, a baby Jesus doll has appeared in the manger! Whatever a manger is. The three wise men then place gifts at the manger’s feet, and all the angels dressed in white bed sheets and bits of tinsel crowd around and sing It’s a Small World After All. I always played the part of an angel, but that seemed alright to me at the time because I liked singing so much better than talking.
It’s pretty obvious that Christmas was never meant to be held in Australia. All those poor scruffy Santa’s in the shopping centres, all the winter food, the bright cosy-making decorations, when quite clearly it is much too hot for all of that. But the parts I do like are the fairy lights on peoples' houses, because it is nice when it’s finally cool enough to go for a walk in the evenings and have a look at what the neighbours have done to their place; and I like the impulse of the family to retreat from the various far-flung places we have strayed over the year, and gather back together around one table at home. The gift-giving thing I actually like as well, even though it does cause a bit of stress in the leading-up. People say that it’s not good to emphasise to children the materialism of getting presents, but I think it’s lovely to emphasise the thoughtfulness and satisfying feeling of giving things away.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like if we scrapped the current version of X-mas and replaced it with something more climate-appropriate, but I can't really imagine what we would replace it with. I think we're stuck with the mess of X-mas. Hayden and I are extending ours by visiting both our families plus a bit more of New Zealand and a stop in Sydney on the way home. See you after it's all over.