7 December 2023

This Christmas, I'm looking for the gift of simplicity and peace

| Genevieve Jacobs
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house in evening light

Christmas means home, family and peace. Photo: G Jacobs.

I’m not a big fan of the commercial Christmas. I don’t like lots of noise and bright lights and I’m positively allergic to windowless shopping malls jammed with anxious people in Santa hats.

Don’t worry – this column isn’t about making your own Christmas presents and swapping homespun beanies over a glass of home-brewed cider (although if that’s your thing, may it bring you joy).

I buy presents, I stress and strain over trying to make everyone happy, I worry about where Christmas is this year and who will cook the meals and I willingly take on the load of doing most of it myself.

Every year there’s a blow-up, minor or major. Someone gets their wires crossed on gifts. When my now grown-up family offered to cook Christmas lunch, that turned out to exclude both turkey and dessert.

And nobody has forgotten the time I followed a Nigella Lawson trifle recipe to the letter, realising only at the first spoonful that there was enough Cointreau to potentially knock my seven-year-old nephew out cold (it must have been around the time of Nigella’s sticky divorce from Charles Saatchi).

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But there’s a moment every year when we sit in our little country church, surrounded by neighbours and friends in their best. Silent Night begins and so do the tears.

It’s a moment of pure simplicity and peace, the moment when I feel Christmas is really here.

Thirty years ago, I brought a baby home at this time of year and walked into church with him in my arms because, unto us, a child had been born.

Outside, harvesters mark lines across paddocks filled with grain in the falling golden light.

After church, the annual Christmas party drinks brings together our big extended family. Someone once counted who you wouldn’t be surprised to see turn up and stopped at 100. There are bowls of cherries from nearby orchards and lawns strung with fairy lights.

Next day, weary farmers will appear scrubbed and clean, their arms tanned below the workshirt line, relaxed for once because we don’t harvest on Christmas Day. And Santa has only very recently stopped visiting our house, where the youngest resident will turn 25 in March.

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The day wears on with cricket on the lawn, the big and little cousins playing together and long, relaxed yarns about days gone by. There will be ham and potato salad for dinner and the Boxing Day test in the morning.

I’m blessed in so many ways. Our families on both sides are close and happy. Despite the usual bust-ups and arguments, we stick together and most of the time, we all like each other.

In 56 years, I’ve never celebrated Christmas anywhere except the house I live in now or the house I grew up in. Christmas to me means peace, family and a deep attachment to home.

You may mark December 25 very differently or not at all. For you, it may mean prawns and champagne, a dip in the ocean or a restaurant lunch. Families break, people are lonely and that can make it very hard indeed to get through the festive season.

But as we’re surrounded by the flashing lights and relentless noise of a commercial Christmas, I wish you all peace, simplicity and, however you define it, a deep sense of being at home.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on Riotact.

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