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Christmas comes but a hundred times a year

For my school holidays in 1965 I was staying with my newly-wed brother and his wife’s family in country NSW. On Christmas Eve my brother drove me to the town’s telephone booth for the obligatory call home.

Wow, a telephone booth! As a kid growing up on Kangaroo Island a telephone booth was an invention ahead of its time. I’d never seen one, let alone ventured into one. Exciting steps indeed.

Back in those days the making of a long-distance telephone call wasn’t as ‘modern’ as the booth we were making it from. One was required to book a trunk call, and the waiting time – on this occasion – was two hours.

Two hours of picking up stones and throwing them at fence posts.

It was, you could say, a ‘remote Christmas.’

Fifteen years down the track every Christmas the parent’s house was packed to the rafters with family and friends. It was the only true annual get-together that we and others families would enjoy, and everybody made every effort to share it.

“Christmas comes but once a year,” so went the old saying. And it was that once in a year opportunity to see family from afar and actually speak to them face to face.

And that was the Christmas scene for the next few decades. Christmas 1965 seemed many lifetimes ago.

But is 1965 catching up to us?

Over the last few years I’ve heard more and more people announce with a sigh of relief that “our Christmas will be spent with just the two (or three or four) of us. Quiet and relaxed.”

With more than a touch of irony, one wonders if modern technology is the vehicle that has allowed 1965 to catch up.

Through modern technology we no longer have to wait for Christmas for the rare get-togethers. Phone calls are a breeze to make, we can Skype (or face-time) friends and family afar, we email each other what seems a hundred times a week, we can share family photos on Facebook or Instagram, and we can now fly interstate relatively cheaper than we once could. Friends and family are with us … always … and not just in our thoughts. Some would say they are in our faces!

After a year of constant communications and visitations … Christmas is the opportunity for some to take a break, wind down, and put the feet up.

And that’s what a lot of people from our generation propose when we ask; “Whachya doin’ for Chrissy?”

Maybe that will one day become the new tradition. After all, we can now have (a sort of) Christmas about 200 times a year.

History will, of course, prove me absolutely wrong, so in anticipation of my complete failure in predicting one of the greatest social upheavals of our lifetime all that is left for me to say is …

Merry Christmas, everybody, from Carol and I.

Kaye Lee once said that we at The AIMN are all a family, and it is a family that Carol and I are proud of, whose company we cherish 365 days a year. If you’re not doing anything on December 25, this is one family you are welcome to spend some time with.


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  1. Keitha Granville

    Merry Christmas to all at AIMN, the little raft of sanity in the sea of the world we now have.
    Our Christmas is still a big family one, with all the added partners and babies – but I know that gradually they will begin their own traditional days. We are ok with that. I feel for those who have no family, or no family that cares about them and I wish them all a great Christmas. I hope they find a place to be and to share.

  2. Cara Clark

    Yes, big family get together for us too, from one end of the country to the other. However the ‘constant comms’ has at least dispensed with the need for the awful skiting annual newsletters! Happy Crimble one and all!

  3. SharonA

    Merry Christmas Michael and Carol and everyone else at AIMN, thank you for a great 2018 and an even better 2019.

  4. helvityni

    Socks no more

    When I was a kid, we used to get hand-knitted woollen socks for Christmas. Mum was very busy and sometimes she had only enough time to finish one sock, and we had to patiently wait for a whole year for its partner. By the time I was ten, I had received roughly four and half pairs of socks…

    Mum was lucky that she did not have to go shopping for the wool; it grew on the backs of our black and white Finn sheep, which was very handy. All she had to do was to send it to the local wool co-op to be processed into a knitting yarn. Some busy people called it LWCO for short, but we had enough time to get the words out, and we used the longer version.

    Our Mum was a gentle person, not one of those tough black and white people. She liked nuances and shades better and therefore she also asked the wool to be blended into soft grey. Of course in those days we had never heard of the Aussie Rules that tell you that girls ought to wear pink and that blue is for boys. We were blissfully ignorant of such rulings and were happy just to have warm feet.

    Life was good; we did not even know that paedophiles existed in our charmed world. Our parents let us walk to school, so obviously no one had told them either about these bad people. In return we did not tell them of our adventures of swimming in fast flowing rivers and the games we played on breaking up ice floes in springtime…we knew of people who had drowned, but not THAT many…

    Now the mums have to buy big black cars and become taxi drivers for their offspring, and by the time the kids turn ten they have sleepless nights before Christmas because they can’t think of anything new they still have to have. They have their laptops, WII’s, IPods, I Pads and scooters and trail bikes, and socks and shoes to die for with labels etched into them. Even the pencil cases have to be bought only at some special Smiggle shop; pens and rubbers from K-Mart just don’t cut it…

    On Christmas Eve Dad and Big Brother used to go to our own forest and came back with a proper Christmas tree, a spruce with sturdy branches, branches so strong you could hang edible red apples on them, and of course home-made gingerbread biscuits and real candles firmly sitting in their holders…no, we never managed to start a fire…We made sure all the edibles were eaten before the 6th of January, the Finnish Independence Day, and also the customary date for taking the Christmas tree down and out.

    Little Max saw a black plastic Christmas tree the other day at some shopping mall and thankfully thought it was horrid, so would have my Mum, if we would have talked about it too loudly on her well-kept grave.

    They don’t make Childhoods or Christmases like they used to. I only hope that it is still politically correct to wish you all a very good Christmas…!

    PS. Michael, I wrote this for a friend’s blog some years ago, I suppose it’s still valid…

    Best Christmas wishes for you and your family….

  5. David Stakes

    I have been ostracized from my family in the UK it seems, seem to think I dont care about my Dad who is 93. But from 16000klm it is difficult. I know he is getting good care from my step family. But they just have contempt for me. Told me not to bother coming if he passes away anytime soon. Nice Eh. Not that I have money to fly back and forwards at the drop of a hat, As for this time of year, we dont do Christmas very well, we send no cards so receive none. We will eat together here as a family unit not as a celebration, but its what we do to mark the time of year. I am not a religious person, leaves me cold the mumbo jumbo that goes with it. Anyhow all the best to all who get into this time of year. And spare a thought for the Old sick and lonely.

  6. Paul Davis

    Firstly, best wishes and ‘season greetings’ to all of you at AIMN – the contributors and the commenters. Thank you for brightening up my year, informing and amusing me.

    Secondly, Michael your telephone booth story brought back memories of my 50s and 60s childhood often isolated from family, where a long distance phone call was a really big deal.

    And thirdly, as i was reading your post ABC TV broadcast our Dear Leader Rubbergums McShoutyface’s Xmas message. As a firm believer anxiously awaiting the impending rapture in the dying last days of this evil world, Dear Leader asks his subjects to pray for rain….. say what? He believes what he is taught, that in this time of the end, we will be ravaged by war, pestilence and starvation, and that if the saviour did not come, then “no flesh would be saved”. He needs to tell the truth, or the truth that he believes in…. that he as a ‘saved’ believer condemns the best of us to a deserved death.

    Cheers, everyone, ‘live long and prosper’.

  7. Diannaart

    We did not have a telephone at home, in my early teens. The phone booth became a both meeting place and my social network such as it was way back when … I spent many hours spent talking to actual boys … so innocent, yet I dared not tell my parents, they were sooooo like, straight.

    Not so innocent now, thank the universe. Innocence and naivety are like honey to predators.

    On that note, the pagan festival for families, especially children is either here, if you celebrate on Christmas Eve or tomorrow if strictly WASPs.

    Whatever and however, may everyone have a Christmas even better than hoped for.


  8. Kaye Lee

    Such flashbacks Michael. The eagerly awaited booked trunk calls where the beeps started as you approached three minutes and the operator would come on and ask would you like to extend which no-one ever did because that would be sinful waste. We lived with my grandmother and she had one of those old black phones where you cranked the handle and asked the local switchboard to connect you. Forget anti-encryption laws – that woman knew everybody in town’s business.

    One of my dear girl-friends has gone to the US for Xmas to visit her eldest son. Her two younger adult children decided to meet them there too. Her husband very happily volunteered to stay home and mind the dog. I rang him a little while ago. He is chuckling having his first Xmas day in decades where he can just relax and see to himself.

  9. Kyran

    It’s funny. We arrived in WA on Christmas Eve in 1964. The migrant accommodation was the nissen hut and the air con was the windows. Having struggled with the privilege of two lads myself, I am in absolute bloody awe of my parents. Six kids under ten in a strange new environment. That’s not to say they weren’t without their foibles and faults, or that money wasn’t a problem for them. As you point out, Mr Taylor, we sometimes forget how much things change, given its gradual nature.
    “Maybe that will one day become the new tradition. After all, we can now have (a sort of) Christmas about 200 times a year.”
    The traditional perception of Christmas being one day out of a year, in which differences can be put aside and common pursuits can be celebrated, is now being challenged by people for much more than an increase to 200. The hypocrisy of practicing what is preached while inside a holy house then forgetting its lesson and ignoring the practice as soon as the service is over or the door is closed is now widely recognised. There are many who seek the good in what is around them, no matter how dire, and avoid fixating on the fault, which is equally evident.
    It’s not just the phone that has allowed the growth of Christmas. Thank you for the gift of the AIMN, the opportunity for so many voices to be heard and so many ideas to be explored. To you and yours, and the whole AIMN family, all the very best for the season. Take care

  10. writtenword09

    One thing modern technology has done is allowed for me to send Chrissy greetings and good wishes to distant family and friends instantaneously.. it’s good for me as I dont get a chance to see all my family. Both of my grandparents had large families and we are scattered all over the country.

    Also with this internetty thingy we have now it allows me to logon here and to wish you Michael, Carol and all at the AIMN a 🎄 Merry, Merry Christmas/Boxing Day and a very happy New Year for 2019🎄Kind regards Kathy. 💜

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