The joy of a child’s Christmas

Christmas parcels from childless Auntie Fran, a new doll’s crib made from a wooden fruit box and Cherry Cheer and Splash Cola. Here, our priests and nuns unlock precious memories of their childhood Christmases.

Noelene Quinane (centre front) at four years of age, 1949.

Noelene Quinane rsj – NSW Regional Leadership Team, Sisters of Saint Joseph

In our family of four children Christmas was all about love: family love and God love.

Yes it was about presents, gifts given as a sign of love. I recall a beautiful doll’s crib; only much later did I realise it was made from a wooden fruit box, planed and painted blue. The ‘mattress’, frills and coverings were secretly stitched in the dark of night when we children were asleep. The result was a delight.

Christmas was feeling the unconditional love of parents and family and a time for special ‘lessons’: how to give to others in need while upholding each one’s dignity, how to share and realise that, amazingly, it’s not all about you. In our family Christmas was also a time for seeking forgiveness and healing and appreciating that we already possessed the best gifts of all – faith, family and service.

Sarah-Jane Hollitt – Missionaries of God’s Love Sisters

We stayed at our grandpar­ents’ house and would have a barbecue at the park on Christmas Eve. There would be carols and we would tour houses decorated in Christmas lights in the back of a fire truck. Grandpa loved decorating his house with Christmas lights, many of which he created himself. It was a family event putting them up and taking them down again. One of my favourite traditions was a grandchild placing baby Jesus in the nativity set before bed. Such an honour when it was my turn!

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Christmas morning was presents and Mass with the rest of the day spent around the table eating, playing games and talking. It was typical Australian Christmas food; roast turkey, ham, prawns, crab, salads, pud­ding with brandy custard and icecream, honey biscuits and Grandma’s home baked treats.

Mgr John Woods with his sister Sharon who is sitting in his Christmas present – a new red pedal car.

Mgr John Woods – Transfiguration Parish, North Woden

As a child Christmas was about Jesus being born and receiv­ing gifts. I knew Christmas was near when gifts arrived in a big parcel from childless Auntie Fran and Uncle Vin in New Zealand. Then there were Christmas cards from all over with beautiful depictions of the nativity scene. For a time they prompted me to start collecting stamps.

On Christmas Eve a bottle of beer was left out for Santa. The occasional Christmas tree had been decorated minus the bright lights of today. Christmas morning saw presents opened before my family headed off to Mass where for some years I served as an altar boy. I enjoyed the crowds and the good will of those mornings, especially the carols.

Christmas lunch was a roast with all the trimmings and pud­ding eaten in anticipation of finding the coins Mum had placed in it. In the afternoon I would sometimes venture out to see what mates had received for Christmas. The first bike I ever rode was the shiny crimson ‘Speedwell’ Christmas present of Chris Duffy. Lucky Chris! But early on, Mum and Dad had impressed on me that the greatest gift of Christmas was God being born like each of us. The push-pull of matters immediate and alluring and the deeper and more enduring religious narrative continues.

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Fr Adrian Chan – Mary Help of Christians, Pearce

You knew Christmas was near when the stores played carols. Even now, hearing carols brings back magical feelings of the wonder of the birth of the Christ child.

Writing Christmas cards to family and friends was excit­ing for it meant buying cards, putting a stamp on each and sending them off. It was great to send blessings in the mail.

We attended Midnight Mass and visited the lovely Christmas crib to make a fuss over the baby Jesus. Lunch was light ahead of a heavy potluck Christmas dinner. Turkey was always a fixture but with a twist, stuffed with chestnuts and sticky rice!

It was a time of peace, childhood loveliness and family togetherness.

Fr Mark Croker – Holy Spirit Parish, Gungahlin

Some of the best Christmas memories came in the lead up; building the crib, sorting a suitable pine tree and decorating the house. The kitchen wafted with the cooking of the Christmas cake and pudding. On Christmas Eve the ham arrived from the butcher and the mixed drinks were sought from Searls Cordials; how good was the Cherry Cheer and Splash Cola?

For many a year, Christmas Mass was celebrated in the quaint Golspie Church. Mum organised the choir of about 15 children all farm-made!

We were keen to see what Santa had left in our pillowcases but Mass was the priority so we were all dressed and ready. For many years our home hosted neighbours for morning tea. You can imagine the children’s noise and excitement as each showed off how generous Santa was! When I see what other children don’t have today as my family and friends had, I deeply appreciate our parents’ effort to build memories still so clear and positive.

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