Christmas – giving and receiving

Christmas is the time of giving, but I was stunned at the generosity when I found myself on the receiving end. I’ve always had Christmas at home with the family that has included close friends who found themselves alone on that family day. But this year, in Sydney, alone with my Mum, I found myself on the receiving end of Christmas, and was blown away by the generosity of people sharing their time with others they don’t see for most of the year, even years.

In Vienna we celebrate on Christmas Eve with a dinner, often carp or duck, a tree that is set up on the day and the Christkindl who comes by late in the evening and brings gifts. The gifts usually appear out of nowhere and settle around the tree while everyone is eating. The Christkindl is so busy that we never actually catch a glance of the ephemeral being. Other friends pop by for a drink before the meal and then go on to their own family celebrations. The 25th is a day for vegging out, mostly, and having time with friends.

This year, in Sydney, my dear friends, Sue and Mike, had Mum and me over for dinner on Christmas Eve. The four of us spent a delightful evening with a hot turkey roll, talking and exchanging gifts. It was a way to capture a part of the European tradition, talk of old times and of new plans.

On Christmas Day, Mum and I we were invited to spend a long lunch with our young neighbours, Jacqui and Andrew, and their extended families, and Marge from next door. Santa had been and had left little gifts. We were so fully included in the celebrations within this large family, something our small one had never experienced, that we are still buzzing from it today.

The gifts of having been included in the Christmases of others will stay with me for a long time. You all know who you are, so thank you sincerely from Mum and from me.