Christmas Past & Now

It seemed incongruous to be eating a roast inside on a hot day, followed by cricket on the lawn afterwards. Now our kids are saying – let’s keep the cricket game, but ditch the roast.

Sweet peas … sweet peace
Telephone box … are they still used?

I took this photo the other day while waiting to meet a friend. I was inspired to take the photo because of happy memories, it being the phone box I’d pick my son up from after he’d finished surfing. Before mobile phones, we’d worked out a system where he’d let us know he needed a ride with a collect call home. A free call because knowing it was just his signal for a ride, we wouldn’t accept the charges.

The kiosk was painted blue back then – as blue as Mike’s feet and hands, his feet so numb he said it felt like he was literally walking on nothing.

Arose out of the blue – Dunedin Botanical Gardens

I’m not in the Christmas mood yet. (Cue Michael McIntyre skit.)

It’s music that does it usually. Christmas Eve when I sing my first Christmas carol. Or on a drizzly day while Christmas shopping, hearing over the sound system, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ by Boney M. Or waking up to Cliff Richard singing ‘Mistletoe and Wine,’ first thing Christmas morning …

Maybe this year’s lack of anticipation or excitement about Christmas quite yet is because I cannot find the lights I need to twine around our balcony railing for a bit of neighbourhood twinkle.

Maybe it’s because there’s no Christmas lily smell in our house yet.

And this year I’m not bothering with a Christmas tree. There’s only Robert and me to see it and neither of us will miss not having one this year. It also removes the annoying hassle of taking down everything afterwards, the January doldrums making it all feel a bit like a hangover.

Dunedin has purple roses too. Found at the Gardens. Made my day seeing them yesterday.

However, there are some Christmas-y things that I will not compromise on:

1) A Christmas pudding like Mum used to make. Boiled in cheesecloth for four hours and coming out with a skin on it. In other words, a Scottish clootie dumpling. It’s a recipe handed down to my mother from her mother who got it from her (Scottish Borders) mother and grandmother before her … Although, no sixpences or threepences in it these days.

B) Christmas lilies in the house … for me their scent a direct hit evoking the season like nothing else can.

Christmas lilies, Dunedin Botanical Gardens

C) Christmas Eve midnight mass / church service – especially the one in the small church up the road with lovely gentle people and Christmas fruit mince pies and a cuppa beforehand.

A pop of pink
In the pink

D) Family and friends. In one form or another. Our Christmases these days tend to be a moving feast. Each Christmas we have a different combination and location depending on who’s available, around or staying, and where. All or few, extended or immediate, in laws, siblings, offspring, grandchildren, friends, a small gathering or a larger one … Last year it was in Gore with just us, Robert’s sister and her husband and Robert’s mother. This year there will be twenty of us at our son’s home.

Visiting our son and daughter in law and their wee one on Monday, we went for a stroll to the beach, just a stone’s throw away (excuse pun)
Kakanui stones
Kakanui near the river mouth

Christmases past have gone. Back when I was a kid (and even later as an adult with my own young kids) Christmas was more or less the same each year, complete with traditional fare; Mum’s trifle made Mum’s way; a shot of sherry and a slice of Christmas cake; practising customs handed down from our settler ancestors; the laden, formal Christmas table, the goose, the mutton roast with mint sauce and gravy etc. It seemed incongruous to be eating a roast inside on a hot day, followed by cricket on the lawn afterwards. Now our kids are saying – let’s keep the cricket game, but ditch the roast.

Changing shed wall art

Now that our kids are more or less running the show, it’s different every year – more relaxed, picnic-style and free to make it as we go along. With the passing of our parent’s generation, we have shaken off the European shackles attitude and now embrace the kiwi summer Christmas, with bbq, salads and a Christmas picnic lunch on the lawn under the kowhai tree. Anything goes, as long as we’re together.

Part of me, perhaps, misses (just a tad) the white tablecloth and flowers, the holly, the snow transfers on the windows, the roast potatoes … but yeah, nah. I’m enjoying the difference that our children and their kids have added to my Christmases of now.


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Past & Now

  1. I love it you got to the botanic gardens and found gorgeous purple roses! I think I know exactly where those are and they’re more open now than when we were there. It’s really special you have a generations-old Christmas pudding recipe, wonderful you’re still making it!

    Liked by 2 people

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