I have many heartwarming childhood Christmas memories from Australia. As a child, my role in our family was to set up the Christmas tree, which was an artificial one. The cardboard box the tree was kept in always had an old musky smell about it. Each year, I reminisced about many past Christmases as I assembled the tree. The tree was decorated with tinsel and handmade decorations, some of which were old-fashioned, while a few were modern ornaments. Around the bottom of the tree, I always placed the model of the manger with baby Jesus in the cradle along with Mary and Joseph.
Over the next few weeks, parcels wrapped in colorful paper appeared at the bottom of the tree. Gifts were for family and friends and there was even a present for our pet dog, Samantha!
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Unforgettable Christmas memories
On Christmas Eve, my mother would help us leave a snack out for Santa. As I got older, I come to understand what was really going on, but I enjoyed the mystery and the kind of magic that Christmas seems to bring as a child. Every year, my brother and I would wake up early and sneak into the lounge room so as not to wake our parents. The Christmas tree was in the lounge room and my brother and I were all smiles at the discovery of more presents found around the tree. We knew what the rules were — not opening any presents until Mom and Dad got up. We were allowed to open the gift from Santa!
Mom and Dad would eventually appear and we would let the dog inside. Once we were all seated, I would spring from my chair and find the gifts I brought for Mom, Dad, and my brother. The dog sniffed the remaining presents under the tree until she worked out which one was hers. My Dad tore the paper a bit and we watched with much laughter as our dog was able to rip the paper off with her claws to discover edible dog treats. We wished each other a Merry Christmas as we gave and received gifts. Afterward, the floor was always covered in wrapping paper and we had to tidy up before visitors came for Christmas lunch.
Sharing Christmas lunch
Some of my favorite Christmas memories are about having all our relatives over to share Christmas lunch. Two tables were pushed together and the long table would be set with fancy tablecloths. My handmade placemats that had our guests’ names on them were placed around with artificial holly as the centerpiece. Mom’s best dinnerware was placed around the table for Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles, and our cousins and a few family friends. On arrival, we children would run to greet them and once inside, I would be given a gift with a hug then I searched under our tree for their gift. Grandma had brought vegetables already cooked and Mom somehow had found time to put the roast in the oven earlier in the morning.
Once everything was organized and we were all at our places around the long table, the Christmas meal was put in front of us. A small portion of each type of meat and vegetable was served on our plate. Chicken, ham, beef, and lamb and on the side peas and carrots, roast potatoes, and pumpkin topped with gravy and mint sauce. A toast to Christmas was made and we helped each other crack the bon bons (also known as Christmas crackers) — then the feast began. My family is not religious, but everyone understood this was the day we come together to celebrate and be joyful.
We were all adorned with the party hats that came inside their bon bons. Everyone laughed at the jokes found on papers inside their bon bons and good stories were shared along with some quiet time while the meal was being eaten.
Christmas pudding with custard and ice cream was served as dessert. As I took a bite of pudding, there was a surprise swirling in my mouth — an old-fashioned coin, a silver schilling. Modern coins have poisons in them and cannot be put into the cake. In My Grandmother’s day, Christmas pudding always had old coins. Grandma wanted us to experience this and I was glad to find the coins and I was given some cents in return for the schillings I found in my share of the pudding. After the long luncheon that finished at about 3 p.m., we cheerfully said our goodbyes, but it would not be long before we would meet up again at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for evening dinner, where the leftover meat was served up with salad and more celebrating continued through till late at night! It was a Merry Christmas for everyone and has left many heartwarming Christmas memories!