Gift-giving the spirit of Christmas

Scarlett dressed for Christmas

So this is Christmas.  Trees with twinkling lights in so many windows, wreaths on doors, Father Christmases in every shopping centre and big red bows tied around street trees. Sometimes one spots a nativity scene in a shop window.   And every now and then houses in rows will be  decorated with millions of coloured lights. Reindeer pulling sleighs, or elves carrying gifts and almost always Ho Ho Ho Santa Claus himself will be included in the display.

Whole towns such as Lobethal and Loxton are jammed with cars wanting a first-hand look at the majesty of Christmas which has transformed  the towns into a sea of twinkling lights.

In Lobethal there is the live nativity scene and carol singing in the main street  – and my nephew Jason, his wife Rhianna and their young six month old baby son, Theo will be Mary, Joseph and the babe this very night.

Churches are adorned with nativity figurines, Christmas trees and advent wreaths of pine needles  already lit with the first candle to herald Advent, the Christian Church’s period of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ.  However, that  familiar nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the stable in Bethlehem, with angels gathered and shepherds hovering, is disappearing from culture’s Christmas scenario. Christmas has become a commercial orgy and a party fest. This is a sad reality in a so-called Christian society.

All this decorates my external world, yet I wonder if anyone would understand that I am not in the mood to decorate our beautiful home with a big Christmas tree and garlands like husband Olivier and I did last year.   It was such a grand family two-day celebration –  Christmas Eve feasting with Olivier’s children and grand-children; church on Christmas morning with my own three  children and the big Aussie lunch, orchestrated more by my adult children than myself.

Or the year before that when we lived at Hindmarsh Island (before Olivier’s diagnosis of advanced prostate cancer) when I blissfully painted tree branches in white and delicately placed decorations on each spindly branch.

Scarlett on her grandma’s knee

However, this year, I prefer to be reflective on our Christmases past and I am thankful that I kept Olivier’s sentimental Christmas cards in which he wrote an endearing French message of love and good cheer each year.

Of course, I will switch on our Christmas lights, which Olivier draped across the alfresco and over the front gable of our new home and I have hung the Christmas wreath, I made with such pride last year, on the front door.

Yet, last Christmas Olivier knew it would be his last unless a miracle happened. So I am facing my first “Noel’’ alone without him, and the thought is enough to get my eyes swimming once more with a thin veil of tears.

Sadness will no doubt lurk. However, the Christmas message “Unto Us a Child is born’’ reflects the joyful event in our family with the birth of Scarlett, my grand-daughter in July.  She has been a powerful injection of love and has brought  a lesson on the unpredictable cycle of life’s tragedies and joys. It means Christmas 2012 will be also the first at the home of my son Tyson, daughter-in-law Vanessa and my lovely new grand-daughter, who will be five months on Boxing Day .   Vanessa’s parents, John and Sandra, will also be staying over and I will awake, as I always have on Christmas morning amidst loved ones.  Their home will have all those delicious Christmas smells of mulled wine, gingerbreads and pudding spices, of cinnamon, cloves and ginger, butter,  brandy and seasoning..  My gifts will be under their pretty  Christmas tree which already sparkles colour and which has candy hooks scattered around.


It occurs to me that despite all the tinsel, it is the gift-giving that ignites the Christmas spirit. Today I begin to buy gifts for the family. Laden with bags of my purchases, I feel joyful that it is Christmas. Because it is the thoughtfulness one puts into selecting gifts that epitomises love and family celebrations. Which is why I am happily wrapping gifts for my other  three grand-children, Samuel, Angus and Josephine, whose telephone calls on Christmas Day will make my first Christmas without Olivier a joyful occasion.



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