Christmas is a very special time for all of us, marked by our own family rituals.
Growing up, Christmas began with a pine branch buried in a pot. Downtown, brother David and I visited Coles and Penneys with our money clutched in our hands to buy presents.
On Christmas Eve people came round to our house for drinks. We had to go to bed, but were allowed to stay up for a while to meet people.
Christmas Day dawns. On our bed is a Santa sack full of presents. We play with these waiting for our parents to wake up. They do, and we get our presents from them.
Mid-morning and we go down to Fa and Gran’s, a block away in Mann Street. This was always open house for our grandparents’ friends and electorate workers. The Mackellars who managed Forglen, Fa’s property, were always there with eldest a little older than me. We talk to people and go outside to play.
Once people have gone, we get another set of presents from our grandparents and aunts. Then to Christmas lunch, always a roast chook. We kids sit in a little sun room off the main dining room.
After lunch we play, rolling down the grass slopes. Sometimes there are special events. I remember one Christmas a piper played, striding up and down the lawns at the back of the house.
Later we go up to the Halpins for late afternoon Christmas drinks.
Time passes. I am living in Canberra, part of the great New England diaspora. By car, train and plane many of us try to come home, meeting family and old friends, revisiting old sites.
This pattern is replicated across the greater New England. Les Murray’s great poem The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle, vividly describes the return of the kids from the city.
The last time I saw Zeke was on the Christmas train. Zeke and I were in scouts together, 2nd Armidale Troop. We were friends.
I suppose that 2nd Armidale still has a bob-a-job week equivalent. That year Zivan and I decided to clean shoes in Beardy Street. We stood there, but no one came up to us.
Finally we overcame our shyness, started spruiking and approaching people. The cash rolled in. I think that we both learned an important lesson, the way in which you have to stand outside yourself to be successful.
Those Christmases were very special times as those dispersed over tens of thousands of miles came back together. I hope that you and yours had a very Happy Christmas.
Jim Belshaw’s email is email@example.com. He blogs at http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com.au/ (New England life) and http://newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au/ (New England history)