Combining Traditions

Another month, another article written for the Canadian Australian Club member newsletter…here’s your  sneak peek…


Christmas Traditions Old and New, Linda Johannesson – December 2008

While I was in Sydney last Christmas, it was only 3 weeks after I first arrived. Christmas hit amid a blizzard of activity, dramatic life changes, uncertainty, new experiences, foreign faces, great expectations and the emotional stress that accompanied it.

Truth be told…Christmas snuck up on me! I wasn’t able to enjoy my traditional serving of Christmas spirit or make my annual transformation into my consummate Christmas cheer-leading elf self!

This year, things are different. I’ve been “Australia-fied” – further acclimatized to life here in Sydney. I am much more conscious of the upcoming holiday season. I have both time and energy to develop some fresh Christmas traditions that fit my new-found Aussie reality.

We’ve already made a good start: delivering Christmas gifts and hampers for The Smith Family, Carols in the Domain, the Suzuki Club Christmas party, buying a new Christmas tree, various Christmas parties, a special Christmas morning breakfast, an early family Christmas celebration, creating our own electronic Christmas card and filling each other’s stockings with tons of silly and sentimental little gifts.


December in Australia brings long fine days, 30 plus temperatures. Locals wear only thongs, shorts, cossies, singlets and sunnies. Carols are sung outside. The beaches are crowded. BBQ aromas waft around the neighbourhood. I must admit, I have a tough time getting my Torontonian toque-topped head to believe we’re on the cusp of Christmas when it feels like mid-July to my innate Canadian calendar! 

I’ve spent over four decades in Canada and there are certain things I’ve grown to associate with Christmastime. In no particular order, they are: dreams of a white Christmas, an Advent calendar, holiday music, short days, long dark starlit nights, nativity scenes, gatherings with family and friends, decorating the house, photos with Santa, seeing your breath outside, bitter cold and The Santa Claus Parade. I connect wearing hats, mitts, scarves and boots and layers of clothing, picking out the perfect real tree, playing Secret Santa, Turtles chocolates, the aroma of turkey wafting through the house, copious candles aglow, midnight mass, nostrils sticking together, warming up the car, shoveling snow, the smell of a freshly cut pine trees and wreathes with Christmases past. I associate Gingerbread Houses, the Salvation Army Christmas Kettle appeal, snowball fights, hot chocolate, Christmas TV specials, Tim Horton’s festive cups, tree-lighting ceremonies, The Nutcracker Ballet, baking Christmas cookies (especially Nanaimo Bars) and creating Christmas care packages with the festive season. And Christmas Bazaars, Boxing Day parties, 24 hour shopping, toy drives, skating, Christmas concerts, wet floors, mounds of boots in the foyer, salt strewn streets, picking out the packed snow from the dog’s paws, a fresh snowfall and the glow of whole neighbourhoods twinkling with Christmas lights are all a part of my Christmas memories.

Some of my old traditions have made the trip here. It was impractical and downright impossible for some others. But, the good news is Chris and I get to develop some brand new ones together.  We are excited about the chance to create new traditions and customs to honor our respective pasts while celebrating our combined new life.

Looking ahead to future Christmases, the magic will be in finding the combination that works for us, especially when this year represents a slight hiccup in establishing new traditions because we’re spending this Christmas back in Canada. But, this trip will give me the chance to reconnect with my practices of Christmases past and consciously identify those traditions that I can begin sharing with Chris. Hopefully, one will be that this year we’ll have a white Christmas!


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