All the Christmases of my childhood were spent at my paternal grandparents' house, next door to my own, at our family farm. We always opened our presents on Christmas Eve, a tradition I didn't realise was from our German roots until I was much older.
We would BBQ trays and trays of meat, the adults would drink, we children would play. Some years we put on a Christmas concert, consisting of lame "skits", dances and anything else we could think of that would be entertaining. We would perform this in the courtyard, frequently heckled, delighting in every laugh we got at our very bad jokes. Later we would open our gifts to each other, with so many people a process that could take hours. We could barely fit in the lounge, and the floor would soon be crammed with splayed kids' legs and discarded wrapping paper.
1996 was a year I was obsessed with Lois & Clark
In the morning, it was church at 8am. We would take our Santa sacks (not stockings, for some reason, just plastic Christmas-decorated bags) full of chocolates and eat it after the service while the adults all caught up with the other once-a-year churchgoing neighbours. Very often, we jumped the fence to our friends' house and our dad had a cheeky pre-Christmas lunch beer with his mate.
Lunch would be tables pushed together in the biggest room, often with a small table set up for the littlest kids. Whoever was hosting would have an army of helpers, and it appeared to our young eyes as if food was magicked out of nowhere into being. Platters of cold meats - ham on the bone, cold chicken. Bowls of salads - potato, lettuce & tomato, coleslaw. Hot roasts - beef or pork. Boats of gravy. Endless sides of corn, peas, beetroot, carrots, beans.
Crackers would be pulled and everyone, without exception, would wear their silly paper hat for the whole meal. I loved seeing my normally serious Grandpa wearing his.
More drink, lots of eating and talking. Until everyone was full and we would disperse throughout the house. Some would clean up, some would go watch the telly. Within an hour, the house would be quiet, with everyone napping contentedly on chairs, couches and the carpeted floor with the tv droning on quietly in the background.
Now that my generation of kids is grown, and most have children of their own, we don't do this Christmas any more. My grandparents' farmhouse is empty. We all go to different places for the big day - our spouses' family, or away to the coast for an "away" Christmas.
I must say I miss the huge family gathering, the hot summer evening, the bugs and endless burnt sausages, Nanna's potato bake and the thrill of getting your name read out by whoever was playing Santa that year.
But now we can start new traditions of our own. This year we are going to my brothers' house in Bundaberg. Lots of family will be there. I'm sure it will be jolly and fun and there will be plenty of food.
Much love to all my lovely readers at this special time of year. Tell me about your Christmas, if you like?