Two Writers’ Sharing Their Christmas
Very soon you’ll see the launch of Heartbeats, Heartaches and Heartburn, the weekly blog Loree Lough and I will be writing together. We intend to share all sorts of writing, lifestyle and general interest topics. To give you all a little taste of the layout and types of posts we’ll be bringing you, here’s an explanation of how two writers from opposite sides of the world will be sharing their Christmas celebrations with family and loved ones. In case our blog is unclear, Loree will be speaking in a coloured font at all times. Red seemed to be the most appropriate colour to choose for this posting.
Our different seasons is obviously the biggest difference to our Christmas Day. In New Zealand our schools close down for the last couple of weeks of December and all of January. Many of our businesses also close down for a two or three week period over Christmas and New Year to allow workers to take their summer holidays. Many New Zealanders take off to the beaches or lakes, or to extended family/holiday homes during this period.
Wow! American students would love that! (Not so sure about their working parents, who fork over great gobs of money for daycare when school is closed!)
Yeah but don’t forget for our kids June, July and August means head down, studying hard – except for a two week break from school in July.
Here in the U.S., workers take off a random day here and there, for shopping, traveling to visit distant relatives, etc., but for the most part, it’s work-work-work until ‘vacation season,’ which usually falls during the summer months (June through August).
Most New Zealanders have either a fresh or artificial Christmas tree and add some decoration to their homes, although wreaths on your door are not as popular here as I found in USA. Not so many of us indulge in lighting displays on the outside of our houses, though, primarily because it isn’t dark enough to see the effect until about 9.30pm. Random garden decoration is also quite unusual, although this too is growing in popularity, albeit very slowly.
There’s another thing we have in common: Some of us chop down a real tree, others opt for the artificial kind. Wreaths on the door have a historic and symbolic significance: Since the circle has no beginning and no end, lots of people believe it represents God’s love for us. Others think that because the evergreen stays green all year, it represents hope. But I’m guessing the largest segment of the population hangs ‘em because so many others do. And let’s not forget that they’re pretty! <g>
On a typical New Zealand Christmas Day this might be the routine for my immediate family. Depending on whether we were motivated enough to attend a midnight service on Christmas Eve or not, all or some of us would attend church on Christmas morning. Presents aren’t a part of my Christmas, but our small gifts for the grandchildren would be shared on return from church. Major “Santa” present giving would have occurred prior to the families arriving at our home, probably before dawn.
Bedlam will likely reign for the rest of the morning as we rush about getting food ready for a meal about 1-2pm. An assortment of meat (chicken, lamb, steak, sausages) will be cooked on the barbeque. Numerous bowls of different salads (probably at least 6) and heaps of bread rolls will make up the main meal which we’ll probably eat on our knees outside around the pool.
Christmas Eve here in US is similar: Attend an early-evening service, then home for spicy cider, some goofiness, and the opening of one present. Next morning, Larry and I wait for the kids and grandkids to arrive. Larry plays Santa, handing out the gifts, and the rule is…everyone needs to ooh and ahh along with the recipient. It extends the ‘opening’ a tad longer, and puts more emphasis on the reasons for the gift. Afterward, the family sits around eating cheese and crackers and whatnot while the womenfolk get dinner on the table.
We gather, say a blessing, and dig in. That’s when bedlam breaks out around here, as overfull dishes of this and that travel up and down the table, where as many as 30 have gathered, all at one time! Dessert comes later. Hours later, usually: Pies, cookies, brownies, and the traditional Happy Birthday Jesus cake. And yes, we sing the song! <g>
My husband despairs over my attitude toward dessert for Christmas Day. But that has never stopped me. I rarely eat dessert nowadays but on this one day of the year, I do get just a little carried away. We would always have a pavlova, decorated probably with strawberries, ambrosia (it’s a dessert here), jellies (jello) and probably cheesecake (my son in law loves cheesecake). I’d have fresh fruit salad to accompany whatever other cold dessert dishes I’m experimenting with that year. I would normally have about 6 or 8 different options on the table. This is not the time to consider calories. I love cold desserts and indulge myself terribly on Christmas Day.
We expect to have about 10- 15 family members join us, depending on where everyone is on this day. The dining table would be covered with cold food, sauces, condiments etc while any hot food will line the bench (counter) and we will all file past and load up our plates (just like in the Navy lol). The children will likely sit at a table, either inside or out, but adults will sit about outside on deck chairs or the steps and eat very casually. After over indulging and resting, it’ll be everyone into the pool to cool off. Extended family would likely return to their homes as evening approaches and hubby and I will breathe a sigh of relief – another successful Christmas, we hope.
We always prepare an excess of food so hopefully we have enough left-overs to last us through a snack for everyone on Christmas evening and also for hubby, son and I to avoid any cooking/food preparation all of Boxing Day.
Remind me Loree, you guys don’t call Dec 26 Boxing Day, do you? Is it a public holiday in US, I can’t remember. It is in New Zealand, along with 1 and 2 of January. I treat it as a day to ‘get over’ the excesses indulged in on Christmas Day.
Not sure… Is that a Canadian thing? <shrug?>
I looked this up to be sure. Its a British/British Commonwealth holiday. According to Wikipedia “Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers.” I’m sure this tradition died out maybe a couple of centuries ago, but Boxing Day (26 January) remains a public holiday within the Commonwealth. There’s a little bit of trivia shared with you today.
As a child, my Christmas Day meal was quite different. Our dinner consisted of a huge roast meal, usually lamb or mutton, with all the trappings followed by Christmas pudding and custard. I think most kiwis over fifty will remember these types of Christmas dinners but gradually over the years, this fare has changed. I know some kiwis do still stick to providing the traditional meal, but I think most of us have adapted Christmas to the summer season.
Christmas was a very different occasion when I was growing up, too! We considered ourselves lucky to get two presents…one from the folks, one from Santa. And we didn’t make nearly the fuss about decorating, inside or out, either. Dinner took place at my nonna’s, and the table was lined with dozens of rib-sticking dishes—some Italian, some American—and there, too, a couple dozen gathered around The Long, Long Table.
The days following, then and now, focus on getting the house back to normal. I know that may Americans leave the tree and decorations up until well into January?
I believe the “proper” time to have Christmas decorations down here is January 6th, but I can’t guarantee I’m right. I’m sure many aren’t taken down until the summer holidays are over at the end of January.
Here? This OCD gal gets it cleared up as close to New Year’s Day as possible. Because…there are books to write and plot and promote, y’know! LOL
Now you’ve heard how Loree and I will be spending Christmas, how about you? How different is your Christmas Day? We’d love to hear of your Christmas traditions.
No matter what you do, where you are, who you’re with, may Loree and I wish you all the very best for a wonderful Christmas. May you travel safely (if travel is involved), eat sensibly and partake of alcohol beverages judiciously.
May God bless every moment of this holiday period.