I look forward to it all day, the darkness. The sun wanes, spilling out its golden light over the mountains in the very distance. Then the shadows come, the candle flames, our home aglow, children asleep under blankets, a glass of shiraz cradled in my hand, and I rest in the quiet; in the peace and the comfort of my greatest of all places: Home.
We began December with a list in our hands and a passionate heart. And then, gradually, the crowds and the hurry just took all the joy away. Rush is an experience I just don’t cope within. I simply don’t function well in it. The noise and hurry, the pressure and the stimulation and the exhaustion – it feels as though it has become so normalised now, the bigger, better, faster culture, that people aren’t even frazzled by it anymore. But it makes me overstimulated to the point of complete discomfort. I feel anxious. I get angry.
We went to Santaland in the city – a tradition we’ve done for years and look forward to – a simple train going around a small track for the children to ride. Simple joys, my children love it. This year, it was replaced by a huge fat screen giving us a virtual train ride experience, and when we “got off”, we entered the North Pole – a loud space filled with giant screen playstations, nerf gun corners and four closed rooms with four different Santas inside, ushering families in and out, in and out, hand us your money and please be on your way. It was as awful as it sounds; agitating, chaotic, and saddening – at least for me, anyway. I was completely overwhelmed, and from that experience onwards, Joel and I decided to spend the rest of December small and slow. We’ve stayed local, we’ve chosen home, and we’ve cut out the noise that told us to have, do and be more.
Traditions are great. They’re invitations to be together. Prompts to create a kind of family heritage. But if they no longer fit and they simply add to the noise, it’s time to replace them with something else. Even if that something else is nothing. Nothing is beautiful, too. Nothing opens up space for lots of wonderful things to unfold.
Like soft music. Candles. Twinkle lights.
Stockpiling our last week of homey Christmassy things tonight, before we change gears, head into the city tomorrow for our annual overnighter in a gorgeous hotel, then start the huge festivities of Christmas eve, and – of course – Christmas day. Rest, do, rest. Repeat.
Nothing says Christmas in Australia like decorating a pav in the air con.
Making salt dough ornaments.
Simple and beautiful. A fun crafty afternoon.
Mix together 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of water, knead into a dough, roll out between 2 sheets of baking paper, cut out the shapes you want, pop a hole in the top with a straw and then bake at 120 degrees for 2-3 hours. You can use forks and knives to create patterns in the dough before baking if you’d like. Allow to cool, then decorate.
I used an old crystal glass to imprint this pattern into the dough before baking and I loved how it turned out.
Always a fun and creative little outlet.
Day in the city.
Where we had our aforementioned Santaland experience.
Because nerf guns just scream innocent childhood Christmas wonder, don’t they?
My girl found the crafts, at least.
And we had a photo with Santa which – while rushed – did nail the quaint, vintagey backdrop.
Still, we got out of there pretty quick and regrouped with ice creams and fresh air.
Georgie’s stocking finally arrived from her Great Aunt Kate in England, and seeing all three of them hung there together was a moment for me. One of those I-Have-Three-Children moments that hits me in the deepest parts of myself. “Enjoy Georgie’s first Christmas”, the note read and I allowed myself to get choked up over it.
The church lights.
Every year we go to our local church lights with a dear old lady from Joel’s work who we’ve adopted as the children’s third grandmother. We eat cinnamon donuts and the kids do crafts and I always buy dresses for Ella – now “my girls” – handmade by volunteers who are gifted with their needle and thread.
I found our girl’s letter ornament to join the E and the B already hanging from our tree.
And I bundled home the sweetest handmade dresses for my girls.
We tried our hand at decorating gingerbread houses this year, something I always mean to do each December but never get round to. It was a disaster. But I had my friend, and we had some wine, and it made for a story, which counts, too.
We started off strong but I don’t know you guys, icing sugar as a glue in 30 + degree heat just doesn’t perform well, and even in the fridge to help speed along setting time, we ended up with this Pinterest-worthy looking thing.
Out of four houses, we saved one. We doted and pandered to it, we coerced it with great care into survival and our kids got to decorate one, at least.
It was a beautiful sight. A masterpiece to behold.
And by morning the next day – thanks to our beautiful, cosy, forgiving weather – we decided we should enter it into a competition for Best Ever Gingerbread House.
Which brings me to my most favourite of all Christmas things this year, this season of my life.
When the sun begins to set.
And the lights begin to have a darkness to shine into.
My babies fall asleep,
And I play my favourite song, over and over, while everything comes aglow.
If you haven’t yet heard Tracy Chapman’s version of O Holy Night, I urge you to play it. Tracy Silverman’s version comes a very close second. It’s a song that haunts and stirs me all at once, steeped with its own kind of strange sadness, but filled with deeply moving hope. It transports me somewhere else. Somewhere divine, where life’s mysteries unfold in my mind like a beautiful, haunting puzzle.
It’s strange – this violent, wretched, fragile, beautiful life we’re given. Bless those artists who take us further to god.
A thrill of hope
the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks
a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
I won’t be popping back in here until after Christmas, so I wish you a peaceful, merry Christmas, a day rich with love. And gin.
Merry Christmas, friends. Thanks for being here.
And happy first Christmas, darling girl.
We love you to the ends of the earth.
And back again.