Christmas in Australia is hot. The sun beams gloriously down during the day and any place with water or air conditioning is guaranteed to be a popular spot. Perhaps the 35 – 40 degree days bring about a yearning for coolness which explains why snowmen decorations begin to populate shopping centres from October, or why Father Christmas in all his winter woollies waves to us from front yards from around the end of November.
Ok, I know, I know – even if I can’t see the meaning in all that, it’s all just a bit of fun, and it does lift the mood when it gets stinking hot. What really puts me in a twist is the social countdown to Christmas: end-of-year parties, school concerts, graduations, pre-Christmas shopping, premature decorating, piped carols in shopping centres from November. Can you tell that I am a little introverted? For me, shopping centres and malls are to be avoided at all costs, particularly with children, from November onwards unless I have scheduled time to unwind, alone, at the river afterwards.
Then there’s the challenge we face in education – how do we ensure we are culturally inclusive this time of year, when Santa arrives with his reindeer from October to remind us that its only 86 days until Christmas? Do we blitz children with a tour of the world’s faiths in the lead up to Christmas? Do we focus just on the faiths and cultures represented in our group of children? Do we have to do any of that? Inspired EC wrote a great post about reflecting on our philosophy at Christmas: “Tis the Season to … Abandon our Philosophy?”.
I don’t celebrate Christmas much with my group of Numala Kinder jarjums at all, really. It comes up in conversation of course – so we talk about it. This year we were invited to decorate our Estate’s Christmas tree – so we did, dripping wet after swimming in the pool. While we hung baubles, we talked about Christmas at our homes, described our own decorations, discussed decoration strategy, delighted in rummaging through the box of beautiful shiny things. It was enough for us: children love to explore differences and similarities in conversation as they find out about their world. I don’t feel the need to paint my hand green and turn my handprint into a cut-out Christmas tree to stick on the fridge while we talk about it though. But I do also know that sometimes those crafts are fun too – if a jarjum suggests making something, we’ll make it.
I struggle with superficial Christmas every year. It might not sound like it, but I do love Christmas, just not in a way that many others do. I love it in a quiet, reflective way. For myself, I celebrate a mingled approach to faith and culture at Christmas: a personal celebration of the year’s journey reflected through my connection to Advent, Summer Solstice and Christmas. They are all wrapped up together in a quiet celebration of connection to Self and Country. I offer the Numala Kinder community an opportunity to celebrate my version of Advent with me in a simple ceremony: a quiet moment of community joy in nature, infused with story and play. I need to care for myself at this time of year or by January I am in a state of overwhelm.
To me Christmas is about connection. I love the way we come together, consider one another when we think of gifts, create new traditions together and confirm our connection through old, meaningful traditions too. I love the moments of relaxed family time, which come after the frenzy of cooking, decorating, present organising and travelling – and if I pace myself, I even love all that activity too. I cherish childhood memories of twinkling tree lights, Christmas movies, excited preparations, walking the streets in balmy evenings to see the house lights, realising that adults can be playful again too.
Christmas is definitely a time to honour the sacredness of life and the specialness of family and however you choose to celebrate, that will be right for you.
Jennifer McCormack offers professional development for early childhood services to encourage critical thinking and skills for practical approaches to a variety of arts-based and playful topics. Jennifer if also available for conferences and special events. See the PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT page for details.