I've always loved Christmas, and have very fond memories of leaving out a can of beer and a couple of carrots on Christmas Eve, ready for Santa and his reindeer to stop by and fill my sack with exciting gifts. (Curiously, although the beer can was always empty the next morning, the carrots were sometimes still there.)
Now that it's my turn to be Santa and my nearly three-year-old understands something of Christmas for the first time, I'm excited about starting our own multicultural family traditions that I hope my son will grow up to fondly reflect on when he reaches my age. I guess starting isn't quite the right word because all I really want to do is meld together the traditions from Australia and Germany and perhaps throw in anything else we think is fun too. Thanks to my travels, I guess, my son's Christmas experiences will be somewhat different to mine - but hopefully just as memorable.
For a start, Germans (and many other Europeans and South Americans and probably others that I don't yet know about) celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, December 24. At first, I found it strange that children didn't get the anticipation of going to bed, knowing that Santa would visit during the night, but the German alternative is just as lovely. The tradition my husband follows is that in the evening (he says, in fact, always at 6.00pm!), the children are allowed into the living room which has just been decked out with Christmas decorations, and it's time for "Bescherung" - gift giving. The story goes that the Christkind (Christ child) has brought the presents, but before the kids can open them, they sing a song or say a poem. (I'm pretty sure my son will go for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" this year!) And of course the big Christmas meal follows.
Back-pedalling a couple of hours, this year we plan to head along to the German church service for kids in the afternoon (yes, even Perth has a church which conducts services in German). We went a few years ago to the adult version and it was full of singing and fun and the version for kids is meant to be even better - we'll be taking our son along this year along with some of his German playgroup mates.
And when my son eventually gets to bed on Christmas Eve (I'm not sure how this bit works: give them presents at 6pm then hope they'll go to bed sometime before midnight? I'd better pick the boring half of the presents for Bescherung I think!) then the German part of Christmas will be pretty much done - time to wake up the next day to the Australian version (which obviously borrows much from the English version of Christmas - just without the snow or cold weather). Santa will visit during the night and leave yet more presents at the foot of his bed, and then we'll spend the day eating seafood and swimming and relaxing - much of it in air-conditioning this year I guess because 40 C is forecast (104 F).
And despite the sweltering weather we'll be singing Christmas carols about snow and sleighs and the Christmas cards hanging in our living room will be covered with snowmen and Santas in thick red clothes. One of these years we'll ditch the Aussie traditions for a year and spend a "proper" Christmas in Germany, but until then our multicultural mish-mash will suffice, I'm sure. I'm also quite certain that once my son gets old enough to understand that his 100%-Aussie mates have to wait until the 25th to get any of their presents, he'll be very glad to have some multicultural heritage!
Merry Christmas everyone, however you celebrate it!