Is Christmas better when you're a kid?

Remember your childhood Christmases? Picture: Shutterstock
Remember your childhood Christmases? Picture: Shutterstock

Some of my fondest Christmas memories involve buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, KB beer, terry towelling and Olivia Newton-John. Sure, there have been many, many wonderful memories of Christmases since my own children were born, but if I'm truly honest Christmas was much better when I was a kid myself. For a start, Christmas just happened. You finished school and the next day it was Christmas. (And what is this finishing school in the first week of December thing?) Presents were under the tree, lunch was done. The day just unfolded before you in all its tinselly glory.

If you were a diligent child - and of course I was - you might have actually organised a grandparent or favourite aunt to take you shopping so you could surprise your parents with some soap on a rope or a bottle of Arpege perfume, but that was the extent of pre-Christmas preparation.

Now you spend months looking for the best Lego prices, waste hours online buying clothes that the kids will have outgrown by the end of summer, pore over recipes from October onwards to make sure you can get dressings made, desserts in the freezer and prawns ordered so come December 24 everything is totally sorted. Or is that just me?

Christmas, circa 1978, was a totally different kettle of fish. Christmas Eve the neighbours would gather informally, the kids might start up a game of cricket, or hide and seek, the dads would crack a beer and sit on someone's verandah and tell stories, the mums would fuss around a bit inside, open a tub of French onion dip and some Jatz, a bottle of riesling and head outside too. It was always hot (well apart from that one year it apparently snowed on Christmas Day in Orange, I was too young to actually verify), there were flies, and Christmas beetles we'd try to whack with squash rackets, and gaudy Christmas lights and some Bing Crosby carols being played on someone's record player, on vinyl, with the speakers pushed up against the open window.

When our parents decided it was time for us all to head inside - usually when the beer had run out - we'd pick the bindis out of our feet, put calamine lotion on our mozzie bites and climb into bed knowing that it was only hours until we could get up at the crack of dawn and open our presents.

Christmas morning we'd wake up just as Santa was leaving. We were allowed to unwrap presents before Mum and Dad were up (see above references to beer and riesling) and my sister and I would find Lego (the eternal gift) and Barbies and books and coloured pencils and board games and think all our Christmases had come at once.

Mum and Dad would eventually get up, open their presents, help us build some Lego and collect all the wrapping paper. We'd have a quick breakfast and my sister and I would put on our new terry-towelling jumpsuits and play until Mum told us it was time to go to Aunty Jenny's, where I think I spent every Christmas Day until I left home.

Aunty Jenny would turn on a feast. Mum, my aunties, nan, friends, would bring a plate or two. There were always staples. Mum's jelly slice, made in festive green and red of course, nan's white Christmas, Aunty Helen would bring a ham. And, yes, there was always a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Don't ask me why because I don't know. But the Colonel was always at our Christmas table. And there'd always be a case, or three, of KB. Kids beer. And, totally irresponsibly, all the cousins as they reached a certain age, always got their first sip on Christmas Day. I was about 16 before I got mine. Helped wash down the secret herbs and spices. And it probably helped with the home videos we used to make. My cousins are quite a talented bunch, musicians, dancers, show offs. Every Christmas there would be a performance of some kind. Someone would have written a short play, we'd do magic tricks, dance like monkeys while Uncle John played show tunes on the piano.

The best year was 1981. We did a ripping version of Olivia Newton-John's Let's Get Physical, where my cousin Leanne, who was the best singer and dancer of us all, was Livvie and my male cousins, who are all now big burly men with beards, played the parts of the transforming men in the video. You know you're going to watch it now.

So however you're planning to celebrate Christmas Day, I hope it's a good one. Make some memories.

This story Is Christmas simply better as a kid? first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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