I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


I remember the feeling in my tummy when I was a kid when our family sang 'Jingle Bells' just before we went to bed on Christmas Eve. It was like having a ball of excitement there just underneath my rib cage.

We didn't have the gadgets the children have today but I do recall one particularly exciting year that seemed to soar above all others as The Best Christmas for gifts. We were bundled off to bed very early after stories of Santa Claus and his reindeers.

My sister and I must have fallen deeply asleep, for we heard nothing of the extensive preparations Father Christmas made in our bedroom that night.

I remember now, 60 and more years later, that I woke at dawn to see in the gloom what seemed to be a perpendicular sheet in the middle of the room, between my sister's bed and mine.

I lay still a minute or two and, as the light strengthened, crept out of bed to investigate.

The sheet turned out to be a small cowboy tent pitched there in the centre of the room, guyropes tied to the bed posts. My sister was awake by then of course, and we tiptoed around in wonder.

There were two guardians at the door of the tent - hand made stuffed Dutch dolls dressed and stitched beautifully by a special aunt. They had yellow woollen hair in plaits and starched dresses and aprons.

And inside the tent? A kid size table and two chairs built by my Dad, and laden with bundles of lollies tied together with bright ribbons.


Australian Christmas is a hot time of the year - so different to many nations on our planet. Here, it's a time for picnics and swimming, but we mostly still have Christmas pudding and turkey and ham. They are often served cold and more and more seafood is being served instead. Barbecues are also popular.

Click here for Jingle Bells Aussie style

And follow Santa on his very different journey in the Great South Land. It's well worth the tiny wait while the card downloads.

I came across this e-card with Australian singer Colin Buchanan's version of Jingle Bells set to backgrounds of Ken Buchanan's great photographs.

I'm putting this great little video on 70 Plus a little early - to wish my bloggy mates a happy Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and productive 2009. I dare you to keep still while this jumpy little tune plays! Listen often and smile ...

Love and hugs to you all from June in Oz

This is an Australian Christmas bell that brings a very special feeling to heaths and swamps in bushland around the Sydney area. It's a truly delightful plant, flowering at Christmas with
red yellow tipped tubes clustered at the top of a 60cm brittle stem.

I like the linocut (above) inspired by this lovely plant. Sadly, I don't know the name of the artist although the style reminds of me of the wonderful Australian artist Margaret Preston.

Do you think you'd enjoy an Australian Christmas? Compare customs here and the ones where you live and tell me your thoughts in a comment ...

By the way - I have just posted episode 10 of my mystery novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing. Pip is involved in a budding romance - will it go anywhere?


  1. Fantastic post June. Wonderful memories of a Christmas past. I remember my mum staying up late into the night making dolls and Indian and Cowboy outfits for us. Great days when I think about it! Way better presents than anything bought in the store. Loved the video too - our Aussie Christmases are way different in terms of the weather and the food we eat as a result. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas where you are. We will be doing seafood and BBQs I think. Take Care

  2. Wow - what a magical Christmas that must have been! Waking up to find a tent pitched in the middle of the room.

  3. Dear Lilly
    We're doing much the same - but at the Eco Village at Currumbin where my daughter and her husband are still awaiting the completion of their house!
    There are great picnic tables though and a beautiful creek - so a swim will be part of the scene as well. We'll be having fun with all of their new neighbours.

  4. Very interesting to realize that you guys have a summer Christmas ! I certainly enjoyed the Australian jingle bellls, and your story from 60 years ago about your presents , early Christmas morning... You know, times may change, there may be different countries,religions,and customs, but a personally made special present is always the one that brings in the most cheer......merry Christmas to you and have a great new year!

  5. Yep LADY FI - I don't think many kids could boast about that! Especially these days.

  6. Thanks Suranga
    I think a lot of people can't even imagine a hot Christmas!
    The silly part is we still have a lot of customs left over from the British - for years we persisted with hot puddings and huge hot dinners but we're becoming more our own people of late.

  7. A summertime Christmas is hard to imagine. Yet I knew the seasons were reversed south of the equator. Have a Merry Christmas, June. It's 10 degrees here this morning.

  8. That was a right pearler of a clip, June :) We always had seafood in Oz at Xmas, not so much the traditional....and if it was traditional, it was cold turkey, cold ham, etc. Always the beach, always hot...I remember 40degree (celsius!) Xmas days in Adelaide...jeez mate, talk about bloody 'ot!!

    It's 11.21pm and 88 per cent humidity. Today the temperature fluctuated between 21 and 29. A warm sticky day!
    Ten degrees is quite a contrast eh?

  10. BRAJA Isn't India hot too? Or is it drier than ours?
    I know Adelaide can be awful. See above for my place right now.
    So the video touched your tender Aussie heart?

  11. Of course I should make it clear that I'm talking celsius... MARJIE you're fahrenheit aren't you?

  12. Loved the jingle bells and the story about your childhood. I wish we had a warm Christmas here! We had an ice storm on Monday that made driving practically impossible. Today, is Thursday and it is beginning to melt but still have snow and cold temperatures. I still remember that feeling of excitement on Christmas as a child.

  13. Wow, I am a first timer here. I absolutely love Australia. I went there a few years back and have not been able to get over the hang of it.
    Christmas in Summer, so unique.
    You took us with you on this great ride through your post.

  14. JUDY - I thought you had just been busy, but wanted to make sure you were okay ...
    Childhood memories can be very special indeed.
    Christmas and snow and sleighs et al seem very glamourous at this distance, but I suppose we don't see the slush and feel the cold in our bones.
    There's good and not so good in everyone's lot.

  15. CLAIR thanks so much for the Christmas wishes. It's been a pleasure to chat with you this past six months, and we have a lot to talk about. I think we understand each other ...
    Happiness and peace to you and Jean

  16. MAMPI - it's good to see how the other half lives in our big world. Welcome to Oz.
    Australians are a no-nonsense people. Some would think a bit rough around the edges occasionally - 'though I believe that's because many of us say just what we think. It's like 'what you see is what you get'. Most of us are happy when we are being good to each other.

  17. June, When I clicked on your blog this morning I saw the post with a link to my blog. I could not imagine why it was there but made a comment. Then, I clicked on it again and it was gone! Strange. I don't know of anyway to do anything to your blog from my end except make comments. Maybe, if you delete the name of my blog in your sidebar and re-enter it???
    It may be something with blogger. I had some troubles recently posting. Sorry, I can't help. I would if I could or knew something to do.

  18. Thanks Judy - something weird going on. I'll investigate further ...

  19. June,
    Wonderful post and you have a very Merry Christmas.


  20. Christmas will always be one my best memories. I had five sisters and one brother, and the whole living room was filled with presents when we went in. It was also so exciting because my Dad would make us line up in the hall while he went and tinkered with things. It seemed like it took forever before we could see what Santa brought. It was great!

  21. Thanks AJ - you too and have a great 2009. Pleased you enjoyed Aussie Christmas.

  22. GERI I think your Dad liked to pull your legs as we say here. Sounds like fun.

  23. Hi June,

    I've always been curious about Christmas in Australia (which seemed so different from the usual White Christmas seen in cards and books), and your post was just the thing I wanted to know about. The tent-anecdote had me smiling. Merry Christmas and God bless.

  24. SUCHARITA - thanks for the seasonal greetings. Do you have a festival around now? Or is your season over?
    I'm pleased to fill in a little curious gap in your mind about Australia. Many of our Christmas cards still have snow and holly on them, but they are being replaced more and more by those featuring our own animals - the koala bear, the kangaroo and the many many others which need protecting right now.
    We have a gorgeous little fellow called a bilby which is replacing the Easter bunny in chocolates at that time of the year as well.
    For so long we have been in the shadow of the British, but now it seems that all that is left is our final decision to return republic. While having a friendship based on equality.
    Sucharita India was one of the British colonies as well wasn't it ...

  25. We lived out west for a bit, and Christmas Day Santa would come around on a fire engine and hand out ice blocks to the kids (we had to leave the air-conditioning to get them, though).

    We also always had to wait for presents 'til after church. That's SUCH a long time to wait when you're little (even if the Christmas service was 7am).

    We've always had cold meat (ham and chicken) and salad for Christmas Lunch. Although I did have a traditional roast on one occasion, I've never had turkey at Christmas. It doesn't bother me because the couple of times I've had turkey it's so dry that I wonder why people get so excited about it.

    Then we'd have Pavlova (REAL Pavlova, not the meringue-stuff they sell in the shops), fruit and cream for desert. Someone would always bring a tinned plum pudding and custard as a more traditional alternative. The kids and men would always have both.

    Most important was to have lots of uncles and cousins around. You need a pretty big number of family around to have a proper backyard Cricket match in the afternoon. If you hit a 6 you score, but get out AND you have to brave the neighbour's dog to retrieve the ball.

    Good Times

  26. Oh June that was a great post, thoroughly enjoyed it and enjoyed the wee vid. I'll send it over to my sis-in-law this morning - she's up to her eyes in packing and all sorts. They leave in a couple of days. I'm jealous of their hol in Oz but I must admit that I'm not jealous of the journey...

    Christmas years ago seems to be mostly the same apart from the weather aspect. We had more or less the same family/home/closeness during our childhoods... Gosh we didn't know how lucky we were having that - there are soo many children these days that think all Christmas means is Santa and lots of toys. When I was small I got all excited with a doll and a stocking which held an orange, apple and a silver coin (usually two shillings) and all five of us 'wee McTavishes' thought it was fantastic ! Reading your post I could almost feel like I was there watching...

    We are still up to our knees in water in the land of the tartan, flippen rain, you wonder where it all comes from ! It was Rob's birthday yesterday (72nd). We had been to Doc's and he seems quite happy with Rob's progress. At least he has stopped being ill after food - Penicillen allergy - bloody hell he has more guts than I have I would have given up the pills after a day - he carried on taking them for a week.... he looks atm like a bag of bones, but we'll soon change that - he's trying to eat for Scotland now ! Should hear from the Hospital re appointment in the next few days and they will then to a catscan.. It looks as though he has Pleural Placques - at times 40 years ago he worked with asbestos.. grinding it etc... and its poisonous of course, though they didn't know that then! well the workers didn't ...
    We'll see what happens after all the tests etc.. what the prognosis will be.

    Our house was full last night with Rob's three kids and their kids and then David (my son) and Debz arrived with Louis and his cousin in tow. The result is the house really looks like a Shambles.. Have just had a cuppa (first of many today) and will need to get organised when Rob wakens.. have still to get 4 pressies before Santa comes - argghh!

    Cheers Peer have a great weekend,(well, what's left of it). Kate xxx.

  27. Dearest Kate - I am so sorry about Rob. My Dad used to build little fibro cottages from James Hardie asbestos and Mum washed his clothes when he came home white all over. My sister and I helped him clean up when the house was built and played with the asbestos offcuts.
    Results - Mum and Dad succumbed to chest disease, my sister has COPD and I have mild bronchiectasis.
    They were a mob of criminals. And yet the former chairperson of THAT company got up in court here last week trying to explain why they had moved their assets overseas, not leaving sufficient for compensation for sufferers. 'I knew nothing' was her mantra. She retired on at least a million. The company knew more than 40 years ago because a friend of mine worked in their lab testing the factory air for asbestos particles in the 1960s.
    There was a lot of other evidence around that they knew as well. I wish I knew some swear words Kate.
    Well Shambles Manor sounds as though it's living up to its name - fun with kids especially in the rain.
    Where will your sister be during her Oz holiday?
    Hugs from June

    Yeah - good times! Simple times!
    Home made pav - isn't it the greatest? Splashed all over with freshly cut fruit salad and cream. Yum.
    And those backyard cricket matches! Today's suburban blocks don't run to that - they're so small. But we often go on picnics and you can bet your bottom dollar there'll be an impromptu match on somewhere between the barbies and the abandoned Christmas paper.
    Good post! Thanks.

  29. Hello June! Thanks for sharing the charming memory of you and your sister with the tent, dolls and lollies. It's so obvious that your family went all out to make it a special celebration for the kids.

    My Christmas Day is quite unique in that it is also my Mom's birthday. We almost always have a ham with potatoes and veggies. Then we open presents and talk about all the memories we've had on that special day.

    Although I wouldn't change my Christmas a bit, I think I'd like an Australian Christmas very much. :D

    P.S. Sorry I've been absent lately. It's a very busy time of year for me.

  30. Hi JEANNIE
    My Dad's birthday was on Christmas Day too! I think he always resented the fact that he shared his special day so we always made sure that things were particularly pleasant for him. Absolutely careful that he had two gifts instead of one for instance, and we didn't miss out on his biorthday cake.
    I'm hoping to have some time soon too. And then I might get back to my family history for a bit ...

  31. Hey June, Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Thanks for all the times you stopped by my blog and left a comment for me. Much appreciated!!

    Eaton. :)

  32. EATON
    Thanks - you too - have a happy time.

  33. June,
    When I check my list of favorites and the latest postings, yours comes up with one that says there is a new one, but when I click it, it doesn't show up?

  34. Thank you for sharing your Christmas with us. June, you have shown us how important childhood memories can be.

    Your description of the Australian warm Christmas reminds me of the Islands Xmas. I remember on one of our holiday visits to Puerto Rico seeing Santa arrive on water skiis. It was amazing. I was a Canadian child that was use to a white Christmas and this rocked my world. Happy Holidays to you and to your family June.

  35. RETIRED ONE - Yes I'm sorry but I've had a bit of trouble with that. It was a problem with backlinks and I got somehow mixed up with another blog. It will probably sort itself out with my next post (sorry a bit tardy at Christmas). Meanwhile you were sent to my home page? Thanks for alerting me.

  36. LAURA - I always feel so sorry for Santa here - he must be steaming under that red and fur blanket! Water skis would have been fun. Happy holidays to you too ... and keep your toes warm.

  37. Hello June, sorry it took me so long to get over here. I listened to the Christmas card, and got a good belly laugh out of it. I sent the link to Kel, her daughter and My Nice, Pony, now lives in Sydney. She just loves it down there.

    I imagine it would be an unusual experience for me, Christmas in summer.

  38. Hi Eric
    Good to hear from you. I haven't been wandering around much for the last week or so either. That's this time of the year isn't it?
    Pleased you got a belly laugh out of Jingle Bells - we all need one of those at least every few days. Take care Eric ...

  39. Merry Christmas from Czech republic!

  40. JESTR
    Merry Christmas from Australia ...
    Visited your blog and it looked interesting - shame I can't read Czech!

  41. Hey June! Happy boxing day. I just did a typo that said happy boing day, which would have worked also :)

    Hope you're having a lovely festive season...

  42. Hi to you Braja so far away ... You Aussie you!
    Yes I had a wonderful Christmas Day but good ol' Boxing Day was taken up with a virus on my computer. Wasa dogging me for some time. Never mind - seems OK now - cross your fingers. What did you do Braj?

  43. I loved the description of your magical Christmas. How clever and imaginative of your family. You must have been sleeping soundly.

    The Australian Christmas bell flower is lovely. I would love to spend a Christmas in Australia. Of course, here in South Florida, it also is warm for the holiday. We have boat parades!

  44. Boat parades TROPIGAL - that means warmth and water - both Florida attributes of course.

    Yes, there is little more enthralling than an Australian Christmas bell in its habitat. The muted grey-greens of the bush are a perfect foil for the splash of red and yellow.

    We should spirit ourselves across the seas for a house swap one year ...


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