Maureen Welch has a 35-year career in school education focussed on school internationalisation and evaluation. Maureen was a Director of Asia Education Foundation (AEF) at the University of Melbourne for 18 years. The AEF promotes the study of Asia in Australian schools. She visited Korea three times to engage with key Korean educators. She led the development of curriculum materials, professional learning programs for primary and secondary students and teachers and the creation of programs to facilitate collaboration and exchange between students and teachers in Australia and Asia.
In Australia Christmas is celebrated in many different ways depending on the weather, your location, religion and cultural and family traditions and the capacity for people to physically get together.
You know it's nearly Christmas when shops start encouraging us to purchase those 'essential' gifts and outside my town hall a simply decorated Christmas tree appears. My local coffee shop displays a selection of biscuits and chocolates that are very tempting. Most people decorate their homes to create a celebratory atmosphere. My home features decorations I purchased in India and Vietnam.
Our family traditions have changed over time. In my childhood my parents would ensure we attended our local Catholic church for a mass at midnight on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day. We used to enjoy singing Christmas carols particularly so late into the night. Today, the focus for our Christmas is the opportunity for family to gather together.
My family includes my 6 siblings (1 brother and 5 sisters), 18 nephews and nieces, their partners and now 5 great nephews and nieces a total of 43 people. Our tradition is that as many as possible gather together on Christmas day for lunch. Whilst our family all live in Melbourne it's not always possible for everyone to be there. Those who have partners need to also visit their in-laws for a celebration making it a long day or some only attend alternate years.
We usually have a three-course meal and those that come bring food to share. Whilst elements of the meal are traditional (roasted meats and vegetables and plum pudding) we often have a lovely Vietnamese dish of barbequed pork wrapped in lettuce leaves which we dip into a tasty sauce. There's always too much food so most of us take home leftovers to eat the next day.
Christmas traditions have had to change as the family has grown larger. We no longer buy gifts for each person and do what's called a 'Kris Kringle' where we only have to buy one person a gift. Much thought is given to finding the right gift. Gifts are presented in between main course and dessert to give ourselves a break from the food! Ours is a noisy event given the number of people involved and the excitement of opening gifts! It’s also the time when we take a Christmas photo.
In 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 30 people are allowed to gather together on Christmas Day so our celebration will be with 23 family members. Several of our families will have smaller celebrations.
Catching-up with friends prior to Christmas ensures that it is a busy time. Luckily, the COVID-19 lockdown was over and restaurants were open. I had a lovely lunch in a French restaurant with a group of old high school friends. Another group of friends will gather outside for a barbeque, a very casual event.
As we have only recently been able free to travel to other states in Australia and travel overseas is limited, many will head to local beaches for a summer break. After Christmas day, the roads leaving Melbourne are choked with cars. I’ll wait until February to have a holiday, a much quieter time when families will have returned to Melbourne for the beginning of the school year.
2020 has been a tough year for many Australians, it began with terrifying bush fires and has ended with the COVID-19 pandemic. Melbourne has eradicated COVID-19 after seven months of restrictions which is something to truly celebrate! Everyone is hopeful that the vaccines in development will mean an end to COVID-19 and a better 2021. In the meantime, keep safe!!
I’d like to wish all of you all the best for the festive season and may the New Year bring you and your family good health and happiness.