As a parent, one of the joys of the holidays is recreating for my own children the traditions I enjoyed as a kid. Especially when it comes to Christmas. A cozy decorated tree, a month of playing Christmas music in the kitchen, oodles of cookies like my mom used to make, and cozy evenings spent reading Christmas picture books. It took half of December for me to realise I was going to have to throw a lot of those traditions out in favour of things that make more sense for, well, summertime. Wild rice and ham soup (a family tradition on Christmas Eve) just doesn’t sound that great when it’s 85 degrees with 100% humidity.
Add to this the fact that we don’t have any of our Christmas decorations with us – they’re still en route from California with the rest of our stuff. I decided to make do with what we had around, get crafty, and be creative. We decorated a driftwood tree with branches from around the property, pompoms, and spinifex on top as a star. My mother-in-law helped me find old fabric and coffee sacks to sew stockings for the kids (I used a wool sock for myself). A plant in the yard that had berries on it and doesn’t wilt easily became a makeshift mistletoe in the kitchen. We hung bunting and wreaths made from plants in the garden.
I had dreamt of cutting a pine tree at the beginning of December, but when we realised it wouldn’t last more than a week indoors in the heat, we waited until just before Christmas to find one. Pine trees aren’t native here and it’s helpful to remove them. We pulled off the side of the road and chopped a spindly Monterey Pine for ourselves. It was warm despite the summer rain, and the kids splashed (one of them naked) in mud puddles while we loaded the tree on the car. It was nothing like cutting a tree in the snowy Oregon mountains when I was a kid, but we’re making our own traditions. Naked puddle splashing just might have to become one of them.
The food we made was also nothing like what I am used to. It was too hot to bake cookies, though I did manage some delicious brioche cinnamon buns for Christmas brunch and tried my hand at fruit cake. We had ham and potatoes planned for Christmas dinner, but at the last minute decided we couldn’t stand turning on the oven so we made quesadillas and guacamole for dinner.
It’s the season for stone fruit, watermelon, corn, and all those scrumptious summertime things, and our garden was bursting with beans, zucchini, and cucumbers. In the end we embraced these things and it all felt more like a Fourth of July BBQ to me than Christmas. But the warmth of family and good food never fails to elicit that holiday spirit, no matter what the season.
After presents and the usual Christmas morning excitement, we headed down to the beach for an afternoon at our favourite little bay. Another family was heading out for a surf together, and others picnicked and swam. The kids ran and splashed while Isaac and I took turns going for swims out in the clear water. The weather was splendid, the sea was warm, and we had slices of cold watermelon to snack on. It was all quite perfect in the end. As I tucked our toddler into bed that night he said, “Mama, I had a wonderful Christmas.” Which is all I really wanted for Christmas anyway.