by Sarah Halfpenny
I recently conducted a poll of Christmas traditions amongst a group of over 55s on Facebook. The results were fascinating, heart-warming and full of nostalgia – perhaps there’s an idea in here that you can add to your Christmas ritual!
1. Christmas food
So many people talk fondly of Christmastime cooking: making a time-honoured pudding recipe handed down from their great-grandmother (including putting the coins in!); gathering with female family members for a day of baking wearing matching aprons; making gingerbread houses with their children; preparing the once-a-year special Christmas treats that everyone looks forward to; having a ‘Bailey’s breakfast’ while the kids open presents from Santa; and of course the traditional dinner featuring turkey, ham and seafood, all with lashings of cranberry sauce.
2. Trimming the tree
Start off with a visit to your local Christmas tree farm to really set the scene and pick out a lovely live tree. Ornaments for it can be special in many ways, whether it’s buying a new one that represents a significant event or place from the past year, making photo ornaments that show standout moments, having your grandchildren handmake their own for your tree, or taking them on a special annual outing to choose their own. This way, year by year, the tree becomes one of memories and adventures.
3. Christmastime customs
Everyone remembers leaving milk and biscuits for Santa (or beer and red wine depending on Santa’s preference!) on Christmas Eve, with Carols by Candlelight a must-watch event on the night. Other popular activities include: going to see the Myer windows; Christmas Eve midnight mass; leaving lists for Santa pegged to the washing line for the elves to collect; driving around the neighbourhood to see the best and worst Christmas lights; watching a Christmas movie marathon (‘Die Hard’ being a favourite would you believe!); playing Christmas music loud and proud; advent calendars to count down the days; the more recent phenomenon of ‘Elf on the Shelf’; and a yearly photo wearing silly Christmas hats after the presents have all been opened.
4. Gratitude and giving to others
One woman remembers listening to Christmas stories like ‘The Little Swallow’ narrated by Bing Crosby, designed to make people reflect on how lucky they were in life. Some people spend Christmas Day as a family serving food to the homeless or delivering home baking to neighbours living on their own. Others give a gift to charity in the name of each family member, with the donations read aloud and a candle lit for a moment of pause and reflection. There are also plenty of food and toy drives to donate to. One woman spent each Christmas Day during her childhood at the hospital where her mother was the Charge Nurse, helping make the day joyous for patients.
5. Spending time with loved ones
Christmas is the perfect time to host an open house so your friends, family and neighbours can drop in as suits them to share the festive fun. Holiday cocktails and mocktails are a sure-fire winner in the Australian summer, with a BBQ and some light appetizers keeping the food simple. Decorate your house with Christmas plants like poinsettias, and remember to dress up in your best Christmas attire – after all, there haven’t been many occasions over the past two years where we could all get together and feel special!