Christmas in Australia

Well our first Christmas here was largely uneventful.  A pretty quiet week involved me continuing to try and work out every day just because I can, and even meeting with a personal trainer for a few sessions that were part of my gym joining fee.  Taking the boys last Tuesday and Wednesday was our only real way to get out of the house, in addition to doing a bit of grocery shoppin,g and they are really enjoying the childcare. 

Steve got to go out with his best mate on Monday night last week for the last time before he becomes swamped by fatherhood for awhile—twins born today!  So exciting!  He also enjoyed a friend’s birthday night on Thursday. 

For Steve’s ‘weekend’, last Thursday and Friday, we had about the two best days as a family of four that we have had since we arrived here—such low stress and a relaxed pace!  We took the boys on a ferry boat ride that goes to four nearby islands, and got off at one to enjoy a picnic lunch.  It is so easy to do and they just absolutely love it.  Later that day we met some friends at their local pool to swim and they had us over for a bbq that evening.  They are so thoughtful and generous and really spoil us.  They got all of us gifts (we did not really do much in the way of gifts this year for anyone—-pretty much our gift is that we’re here because that is what we’ve been spending our money on!) and she purposely tried to get us some Christmas decorations to help replace all that we had to get rid of—so sweet.

On Friday, we celebrated our ‘family’ Christmas—told the boys Santa came overnight and we did our stockings and gifts to each other and the boys from us and Santa.  One of the best parts of Christmas is seeing it through the eyes of young children and I am so blessed that motherhood has allowed me this experience.  They don’t care when it is—they just delight in the magic.  Then we took a drive to explore some of the northern suburbs on the water that are possibilities for us.  We saw some adorable towns and beautiful spots and it got us both really excited to make the move.  I think this all will become more real to me once we are finally in our own space and using our own stuff, especially the stuff we brought over.  I’m not really sure what it feels like now—maybe a cross between a long trip and a move—-hard to say, but it doesn’t feel ‘real’ yet to me—whatever that means.  We played with the boys at a park, walked along the water, enjoyed lunch in a cafe, and then came home to have a big pasta dinner (me trying to bring some of my family’s Christmas tradition) and then drove around to look at lights.  Drew was so adorable—thought the houses with one string of lights were just as exciting as the ones that were blazing.  Just a perfect day……

I was nervous for our Christmas Eve without Steve but it went surprisingly well, thanks again to lovely friends, both new and old and neighbours who looked in on us that day, and even allowed us to crash their family time for a bit.  That evening a friend helped me take the boys and Steve’s brother to a church and carols service.   This time, in addition to Aussie Jingle Bells, they redid the words to We Wish You a Merry Christmas!  But overall, a lovely service and a nice evening out.  I was most touched by my friend who came specifically to keep me company and help with the boys—she was amazing. 

Steve got home earlier than expected on Christmas morning, which was a nice treat, and we had a nice, relaxing day with his family.  As per my usual, I was pretty blown away by the insane, overdone amount of food for the size of the group—-two kinds of fish, two kinds of meat, five desserts, etc.  Again, I can’t say “Australians overdo it”, “Americans eat less”, because it is so individualized to each family and/or area of the country, but this was definitely way beyond anything I have seen with my family for a holiday.  We also got to take the boys down to the park to test out their ‘new’ bikes, which they loved—I think they almost feel more cool for being in a helmet than being on the bike itself—not quite sure.  However, contrary to most expectations, it was too chilly to swim!  Nice, sunny day, but the strong breeze here by the water made it not good swimming weather.

Today, Boxing Day (I need to learn what that is, what people do) was our loneliest day for this holiday, but the three of us had a pretty good day anyway.  From what I can tell, Boxing Day is a cross between Black Friday, and our Christmas Eve, where people spend the day at whichever side of the family they were not with on Christmas Day.  And it is a public holiday—two in a row for a four day weekend.  So, anyone we knew was with family today, enjoying time off.   But Zach has had croup the past couple days and still has a bad cough, and I could tell both boys were quite content to just chill at home.  We watched 2 movies, baked muffins, opened our CO presents and skyped with our CO peeps for hours!  Again, a double edged sword—I love Skype because we could open presents ‘together’ and see it all, but it also makes me more sad.  But I really am a big baby—most people have celebrated more than just two Christmases away from their family, and I am really blessed because I still had my true core—my husband and sons, with me.  Some don’t even have that.  So, all in all, things are good.

One observation—I do love that Australia fully celebrates Christmas and you can say it whenever you want, and I do like that so many things close down for even more than just the one day, and that people take a lot of time off to enjoy the holidays.  However, if you are not one of those people, that is really going full out to celebrate Christmas, it makes it not so much fun and a bit harder.   There is no mail for four days; the gym has cancelled most classes and has closed the childcare for this entire week.  Basically, there are no real outlets for us right now. 

I also noticed something else that makes this move overseas more difficult than a move within the country.  As with most other things, almost everything I do to celebrate a holiday that’s been at the forefront of my life as long as I have been alive is different.  The tree is different; the weather is different; the decorations are different.  Also, people don’t send cards because the postage is different; people don’t call because the rates are higher; presents are different because the currencies are different and the shipping costs so much more.  When Zach started coughing a lot with that croup bark in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, it hit me that I did not know who to call if he needed treatment that night or even the next few days.  As I mentioned, even the actual celebration days are different—for what I’m used to, Christmas Eve is kind of a ‘pseudo’ public holiday (because we just have so few!), and most people are off.  Here they are busy!  Then start partying the next day…..It continues to amaze me how those little things add up and make the whole experience….foreign. 

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