As Christmas approaches in Australia, the weather really warms up and this year has been no exception. The grass has turned brown, burnt by the heat rather than cold, and my backyard bamboos daily curl up their leaves in an attempt to conserve water and survive the dry winds. Heat wave conditions and bushfires up and down the East Coast have welcomed December and Summer this year and we are experiencing a dry heat before our usual summer humidity arrives. As I recently drove home from work in airconditioned comfort, it was 35’C outside, yet the radio was playing “Baby it’s cold outside.” A bit strange, really. There are no Christmas Markets nearby (How I loved visiting them in London, Paris and New York City with my daughter four years ago) and it’s way too hot for hot chocolate and mulled wine. As a teacher, the end of the school year is a busy, busy time and it’s easy to ignore Christmas, especially now I don’t have my own children living with me. A Summer Christmas is all I’ve ever known. Our one attempt at a White Christmas was a dismal failure, as it was unseasonally warm and without snow in our chosen locations although I enjoyed all the edible Christmas goodies in the climate they were designed for. So how do I get into the Christmas Spirit? I have personal traditions, some old, some new, which I love to follow each December. Here’s my top ten, in no particular order:
Wander through Christmas shop displays , in search of the perfect new decoration to add to my collection. I enjoy adding to my collection annually and this year, I found a cute reindeer and bamboo travel cup at my local TKMaxx. I keep visiting, in search of a perfect Christmas platter or dish. Fingers crossed, I find one.
Unpack Christmas decorations, setting them up around the house. Traditionally, this is done the first weekend in December, but I got in a few days early this year. Although decorations hand-made by myself and my children at a young age are no longer displayed, I love to hold and look at them each year before setting up my current displays. Many ornaments have been purchased whilst on holidays and memories of family holidays return to me as I place them on the tree. (More about this on day 13.) A favourite is my tiny Peruvian nativity set, purchased when my husband and I walked the Inca Trail to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
Wrap gifts already purchased and make a list of gifts yet to be found. Usually I have most gifts organised before December, as I purchase throughout the year. This year, I have two vouchers to purchase and my Christmas shopping will be done. That is always cause for celebration.
Make final adjustments to practical donations. Sadly, Christmas is not a happy time for many and in this time of giving, I make a conscious effort to add some cheer to others who are struggling. I support a couple of local charities, as I donate to Operation Christmas Child earlier in the year and like to donate to both local and overseas causes. Sunshine Coast Basket Buddies collect food hampers and provide weekly items to include for a couple of months before December. It’s easy to add an item to each week’s shopping then drop off the completed hamper bags at the beginning of December. Share the Dignity provide large handbags full of toiletries and extra gifts to women and teens who are homeless or taking refuge in women’s shelters. I love that both these charities work within the local area and donations are distributed close to their collection point. Locals helping locals is what it’s all about.
Follow daily Advent readings subscribed to online through Common Grace. Christmas is, after all, about Christ and short daily Bible readings help me keep this in mind. This year the theme is Fear Not.
Search recipes and decoration ideas for Christmas Dinner. I enjoy trying new ideas and spending time discovering them. This year, we’re having an intimate gathering and I’m breaking with all tradition to do something totally different. (More about that on Day 23.)
Start winding down as the school year draws to a close and prepare some fun Christmas classroom activities. Reports have been completed and we have two weeks of busy end of year actvities leading up to Year 6 Graduation, but there’s always time for some Christmas fun with alternatives for students who don’t participate in the celebration. Teach Starter’s Funky Reindeer are always popular.
Finally start to enjoy my advent calendar, opening a little door each morning, revealing a special surprise. This year, I’m loving having a different T2tea daily. (To discover more about Advent and calendars, go here.)
Check out local Carols by Candlelight times and locations and add one to my diary. There’s something really special about community singing events. I love them but my husband doesn’t. I may just have to attend with a friend this year.
How do you get yourself into the Christmas Spirit and prepare for December 25th?