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Christmas on the Other Side of the World




For most of us, Advent and Christmas is a time to focus on going from darkness to light.

 

Our days are getting longer. Christ has come to light our way.

 

But in Australia, they’re in the in the middle of summer, and the days are getting shorter. They are heading into the darkness.

 

Australian Christmas traditions include camping, decorating with Christmas Bushes (a native Australian tree) and poinsettias. Santa gives his reindeer a break from the heat and lets the kangaroos (six white boomers) take over. Carrots and non-alcoholic beer are the snacks of choice for a Santa who has typically changed out of his heavy red suit into something more locally appropriate. Christmas dinner can include barbecue with prawns and lobsters. And don’t forget the surfing.

 

Forty-three percent of Australians claim to be Christian, but Christmas as a public event seems be largely secular. The exception is Carols by Candlelight programs which are held throughout Australia. What started out as a sing-a-long in the late 1940s has become a full professional concert program.

 

There are some original Christmas songs (no carols), and some that take our familiar songs and make them Australian:

 

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute [utility car],

Kicking up the dust, esky [cooler] in the boot

Kelpie [dog] by my side, singing Christmas songs,

It’s summer time and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs.

Oh!

 

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way

Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer’s day, hey!

Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut.

O what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.

 

and

 

Deck the sheds with bits of wattle [decorative tree], fa la la la la, la la la la.

Whack some gum leaves in a bottle, fa la la la la, la la la la.

All the shops are open Sundies, fa la la la la la, la la la..

Buy you dad some socks and undies, fa la la la la, la la la la.

 

Deck the sheds with bits of gumtree, fa la la la, la la la la.

Hang the deco’s off the plum tree, fa la la la la, la la la la.

Plant some kisses on the missus, fa la la la la la, la la la..

Have a ripper Aussie Christmas, fa la la la la, la la la la

 

One Christian oriented original song is The Three Drovers. Drovers are shepherds.

 

Across the plains one Christmas night Three drovers riding blithe and gay, Looked up and saw a starry light More radiant than the Milky Way; And on their hearts such wonder fell, They sang with joy. 'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!' 

The air was dry with summer heat, And smoke was on the yellow moon; But from the heavens, faint and sweet, Came floating down a wond'rous turn; And as they heard, they sang full well Those drovers three. 'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!' 

The black swans flew across the sky,

The wild dog called across the plain, The starry lustre blazed on high, Still echoed on the heavenly strain; And still they sang, 'Noel! Noel!' Those drovers three. 'Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!'


Words and music by John Wheeler. Music by William G. James. © 2948 Chappell & Co. Ltd., Chappell Music Ltd., London W1Y 3FA

 

I also found a version of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” based on a poem written by Rev. Mother Francis Tobin, c 1890-1910, adapted 2006. There are versions available for all the different nations around Australia (New Zealand, Queensland, New South Wales, etc.)

 

O little babe of Bethlehem!

The Southern Cross shines down

As one Star shone glorious

Above an Eastern town.

The hearts of Bethlehem are cold

The streets are hushed with snow

The doors are barred there is no room

Dear Lord where will You go?

 

O come sweet Jesus come to us!

Australia’s sun is warm

And here are loving hearts enough

To shield you from the storm.

Come! We will give You all we have

Each bird and flower and tree;

The breeze that stirs on the silver gums,

The music of the sea.

 

And sweet wild clematis starry-eyed

With delicate ferns we’ll bring

Our wattle trees shall shower their gold

In tribute to our King.

We’ll watch when evening sounds begin

And dreaming flowers nod

Your mother fold you in her arms

Dear little lamb of God

 

Bell–birds shall ring their silver peal

From gullies green and deep

And mingle with the magpies note

To call you from your sleep

O little babe of Bethlehem,

Australia loves you well,

Come to our hearts this Christmas tide

And there forever dwell.

 

As we approach the end of the church-designated Christmas season, let us not forget the gifts of the Magi presented on the 12th Days. In Australia’s 12 days you would receive:

            12 parrots pratting

            11 numbats nagging

            10 lizards leaping

            9 wombats working

            8 dingoes digging

            7 possums playing

            6 brolgas dancing

            5 Kangaroos

            4 koalas cuddling

            3 kookaburras laughing

            2 pink galahs

            And an emu up a gum tree.

 

For some of us Advent and Christmas are indeed a holy time, and we joyously celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

But for large parts of the population in the world, it’s a secular day. But even in a secular world, Christmas is a joyous day of sharing and love and fun with family and friends. Isn’t that part of the spirit of our Christian Christmas?

 

Ann Iona Warner

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