Guest blogger: Louise Reynolds
It has always been a puzzle to me that people who haven’t bothered to catch up all year suddenly simply must catch up before Christmas. Similarly, family who aren’t in touch regularly throughout the year are hell-bent on squeezing into one twelve to fourteen hour period, multiple visits—and gargantuan meals—with not only their own blood relatives but those of their spouse or partner. And as many of us acquire more complicated family arrangements, this can reach almost ridiculous levels as we hurtle about the countryside trying to please everyone.
Can there be anything more fraught than the delicate negotiations about whose family will be graced with your presence this year for Christmas lunch? How do you politely extricate yourself from a meal running overtime in order to drive 100 kilometres to another home to start all over again?
When I was first married, to a German, this dilemma was neatly taken care of. Christmas Eve, which in my family was a time to do final present wrapping while watching carols on TV, was their main event. So we had bunte teller, gingerbread houses, goose or duck. It all seemed terribly exotic.
But the next day we were dragged firmly back across the Channel for a typical English Christmas dinner, Australian style. Never mind that it was 30 degrees Celsius outside, we clung to the Dickensian idea that Christmas was about lots of hot food in cold bellies. We ploughed manfully through pork and bird smothered in thick gravy, piles of roasted potatoes and pumpkin and plodded inexorably towards the Christmas pudding, something I loathe. Dense with fruit and suet this is guaranteed to sit like lead in your stomach.
As the German exited, so an American or two came into our lives. I spent some Christmases in the US and my brother partnered with a Mississippi miss and all of a sudden we were eating peas in milk, candied yams and turkey roll, all of which sat side by side with our food like uncomfortable diplomats at an ANZUS meeting.
Of course, in Australian homes alcohol is never far away at Christmas. There was the year I came upon someone in the kitchen bravely sawing away at the turkey with the blunt side of the carving knife while cheerfully holding forth on the poor quality of birds these days.
So do you experience that emotional tug of war at Christmas and how do you cope with it? What cross-cultural Christmas treaties have you entered into?
Wherever you are and however you celebrate, may you have a Merry Christmas.
An Outback Christmas
It’s just a few days before Christmas but you wouldn’t know it at Carrie Holt’s remote outback home. Not only has Carrie turned down all invitations to spend the festive season with friends, she’s cancelled Christmas entirely. For Carrie, Christmas holds nothing but sad memories.
Meanwhile, handsome architect Adam Davidson has planned a special Christmas camping trip with his son, Tyler. But a huge storm sends Adam and Tyler straight to Carrie’s door, desperate for help.
With the property cut off from the only road out, Carrie is forced to play host to these strangers – the last thing she wants at this time of year. As Christmas draws near, Adam and Carrie grow closer. But with so much tragedy in her past, will Carrie be able open her heart again and rediscover the magic of Christmas?