A christmas to remember

Celebrating Christmas.

This year my Christmas festivities began on November 19, with one portion of my family travelling to Sarina Beach from Rockhampton, Mackay and Moranbah. This early Christmas weekend is an adventure we undertake every year, and we do this well and truly before Christmas rolls around, ensuring we can all attend as there are six families to coordinate. The dates are set well in advance, work shifts are checked, time off is submitted, and the accommodation bookings are secured, with all that’s left to do is to arrive and have fun.

The Friday of our weekend early Christmas, is a version of Christmas Eve, and Saturday is the main event or Christmas Day #1, as I like to call it. We wake up on Saturday, just like Christmas Day in December. A practice run for the main event in December, if you will.

There are eager children, a delicious breakfast, lunch preparations underway, and loads of presents to trawl through, thanks to a very generous Nanna (Sue Wooler).

At this stage of my life, Christmas is all about the children and being in the presence of those I love, bringing smiles to their faces and encouraging them to be thankful, grateful and generous to those less fortunate.

Christmas looks and feels different each year, and the dynamic will continue to shift I imagine. Never one to wish away time, but curious about what’s to come, nevertheless.

I was a fortunate child growing up in Rockhampton. I had loads of aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, siblings – full, step and half, plus many cousins. Spare time was spent with family in blow-up pools in the backyard and, under a sprinkler, on a trampoline with no net.

Mum (Marise Leis) and Dad (Alan Wooler) lived in Sarina when I was born, and Mum’s family lived there during my childhood. I spent my first 18 months in Sarina, and was born in Mackay.

Mum’s family had two choices each year for Christmas Day, Sarina or Rockhampton. Who knows how the decision was made each year, but I’m sure there would have been a method to the rotation, especially if my Aunt had anything to do with it.

One year there were so many of us at my Aunt and Uncles home in Sarina that we hired (I presumed?) the Girl Guide Hut next door to their house, and we all slept on mattresses on the floor. A lovely big tree in the corner of the room overflowed with gifts once Santa arrived on Christmas Eve while we were sleeping.

The 80s and 90s were a great time to be a kid with your cousins at Christmas.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year for some. For others, it isn’t as grand.

Christmas can be challenging for some of our community members. We must acknowledge that a few may be struggling, and the festivities surrounding them make everyday life all the more difficult. If we consider those around us and remember that everyone has something going on, we can ask ourselves what we can do to make their lives and those of everyone around us easier.

When we’re in a position to help, let’s help where we can because one day, it might be us who needs a hand.

While Christmas Day #1 kicked off our family’s festivities, the rest of getting Christmas up and running was a little rough initially. I’d wanted to put our tree up and all the decorations when we got home from Sarina Beach, but time did not permit it.

The procession of end-of-year events and activities resulted in less time at home. Throw in a work trip to Brisbane for a week, and the activation of Christmas was days late and well and truly into December.

Handmade gifts and decorations are my absolute favourites, and I love picking up items to add to my collection from local markets and fairs each year. Things that are worth far more than what they’re sold for, and I know I appreciate the time and effort that goes into each beautifully handmade piece. Quickly making up for lost time a few days into December, the house now looks like a Christmas bonbon has exploded with decorations.

I look around at my home and see and feel my family members who are no longer with me because each Christmas item is special, influenced, selected or gifted. I’ve sewn quite a few decorations myself; however, the ones I’ve bought are because I’ve felt like they’re what my Grandmother, Glenda Ross, would have made if she was still here enjoying retirement.

I don’t think I’ll ever have a colour-coordinated home with Instagram-worthy Christmas styling, but I don’t mind because each item is a memory, a gift, a story, a handmade piece or a market or fair purchase. I remember them all, what they mean and how they make me feel.

This year we’ve continued the tradition; the children have advent calendars, our Elf on the Shelf has returned, and we’ve visited homes with Christmas lights. We have enjoyed the great Carols at the Pilbeam Theatre and the CBD Christmas Fair on Quay Street, plus we have more end-of-year parties and break-up celebrations to attend to keep us going for the entire month.

If you’d like to see Christmas’s true spirit and magic this year, I urge you to visit a home on Forbes Avenue in Frenchville. Park the car, be patient and line up to see the window display. Take some loose change too, as there is a voluntary donation tin for Autism. This masterpiece of a display takes eight weeks to create with the family starting in October each year, to bring Christmas joy to their community and smiles to children’s faces.