Christmas is a perfect time of year. Quality family time, perfectly wrapped presents, stunningly set tables filled with a Gordon Ramsay style feast... or at least that’s how it is in the Myer catalogue. Let's be honest, in reality, Xmas with the family is more like a cross between Survivor and a UFC cage fight.
For several years now, we decided to skip any pretence that it’s all going to look like a Norman Rockwell painting and just have a Red-necked themed holiday. Carved watermelon baskets, things wrapped in bacon, fruit filled with alcohol, a Santa dressed like Elvis and Christmas music provided by Garth Brooks. With that in mind this is our Redneck Christmas Survival Guide:
1. Decorations - Don’t be so obsessed with everything looking so perfect that the kids are not able to help. They are the ones who actually enjoy Christmas, so if they want to hang something from the ceiling that you think looks ridiculous but they love, let them do it. They aren’t little for very long. My toddler, like most kids her age, is Frozen obsessed. I asked her what she wanted: to build a snowman. The temperature was over 40 that day so with real snow not being an option, we got four old tyres, some white paint and a few other bits and pieces and, much to the dismay of the neighbours, made a snowman on the front lawn and covered him in Christmas lights. The Kid helped with all the painting and she was so proud of herself.
2. Presents - We spend so much time running around before the holidays buying things we aren’t even sure the other person wants or needs just so there’s something wrapped under the tree. Our wallet’s getting thinner or credit card debt getting bigger. Of course, you should buy for the kids but let’s be honest, there is nothing I really want that I wouldn’t buy for myself during the year. The year of the Boxing Day Tsunami, our family were watching the coverage on the news and as every hour ticked over and the number of lives lost rose, we sat in air-conditioned comfort surrounded by wrapping paper and leftover food. All the trinkets seemed infinitely less important. That day without a word, each of my relatives picked up the phone and donated to the relief effort. Every year since then adults inthe family have purchased Oxfam cards that send a goat or a chicken to a family that needs it.
This year as I watched the election unfold in the US, It reminded me that I am responsible for the example I set for The Kid and the kind of person I hope she becomes. So after a quick trip to Bunnings and Officeworks (my two happy places), I set about making her a very special advent calendar. Each day from Dec 1 she will get her chocolate along with a book chosen specifically to make her feel empowered or about being kind to others and standing up to bullies and a note about a nice thing we will do that day for someone else. Little things like donating old toys and clothes, taking chocolates to the local fire house, etc.
3. The Relatives - No matter what you do over the holidays, long held resentments people have kept a lid on all year are going to boil over. Your great-aunt is going to end up in tears after her fourth gin because no one is eating her pasta salad, something you spent hours preparing is going to get burnt. There will be bumps, scratches and bruises, either from cousins pushing each other over or some drunken fool falling off their chair or tripping over their own feet. Your sister’s idiot boyfriend will start the wood burning BBQ with petrol because fire-lighters just won’t do the trick. Relationships will be breaking up and reforming around you like you’re an extra in a Shakespearean play. Just grab a stack hat and a big glass of wine and be grateful.
We lost my uncle, very unexpectedly in 2014 and we have been through cancer treatment with my gorgeous mum, so with them both in mind, this is my holiday advice. Yes, you will inevitably end up swearing under your breath at something or someone (or a combination of both), but these are the times you will remember. Make the most of them. The less perfect it is, the more likely it is to turn into a story you’ll tell around the dinner table for years to come. These are the people you will miss the most when they are gone.
I was looking for gems of Redneck Wisdom to help you through the holidays and the best I could come up with was this: “If everything’s coming your way... you’re in the wrong lane.” Be nice to each other. Happy Holidays, Y'all!
For a full list of the things that ended up in our advent calendar, please check out the On Tour with the Kid Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ontourwiththekid).