As we near Christmas, the scramble to wrap up the year has begun. It has been a whirlwind for us all. I am not ready for Christmas. I was not ready for all that transpired this year. Yet, here we are. We always go to see the Martin Place Christmas Tree, on its maiden lighting, my daughter and I. We had a lovely surprise two years back when another family joined us on the train to Sydney, and we have shared this occasion with them ever since. My daughter had been unwell, and our friends assumed that we wouldn’t be going in this year. Not a chance! My girl bounded in and announced she was feeling better, insisting we go. We met up with our friends, and amused the other passengers with our musical elf and reindeer ears. We walked through Martin Place, noting the food van and the grateful punters lining up for a meal.
When the tree was lit, I screamed with excitement! It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is a thrill!
Life can suck, sure, but when thousands of people go ‘wow,’ and people either side are smiling at you, all is forgotten in that moment, even the light rail debacle. It was made pretty with lights and choirs.
There were performers on every corner, and as the choir sang a request for peace, I felt it reach inside my soul. We stared into each other, these choristers and I.
We greeted strangers in the Pitt St Mall, admired the Swarovski Christmas Tree in the Queen Victoria Building, and pressed our faces against the David Jones Christmas windows. For a few precious hours, we were as enthralled and excited as young children. For a few precious hours, there was beauty. May it continue throughout the new year, this hope, this energy.
I once rejected the idea of putting up the Christmas tree and decorations before December 1st. That was until I met a group of ladies in an IVF support group twelve years ago. We went through it all, from pregnancy loss, and losing much-loved babies to enduring cycle after cycle with no result. Christmas felt like a mockery, a sneering group event that we weren’t invited to, and we dreaded the lead-in to the festive season. Somebody suggested emblazoning our environments early (starting in October), as a way of cheering ourselves and also to state that we were all still here, surviving. To ensure we did as promised, we sent pictures to the group. The joy was contagious, and a tradition was born. Through the ensuing years, some have had a bub, others have adopted and some have reimagined their lives, bringing new dreams forth. We still all put our trees up early. My daughter loves hearing about my friends, and how we supported one another. She also loves this tradition! Hey, the earlier we start celebrating the better to a kid! Each decoration is symbolic of a time and place. Some baubles were made for us, and hold a special place in our hearts. We played Christmas carols and did karaoke. As we switched on the lights, it felt like Christmas had really begun. The frenetic energy of shopping centres and the demands and exhaustion (only adults feel), was replaced with the truth that life is to be celebrated, here and now. No matter what my friend’s endured, they made sure those trees were up, and the house wrapped in tinsel and fairy lights. I think of each and every one as we fulfil this tradition, and I still post photos as evidence that we are celebrating early.
When you are feeling out of sorts, you tend to let the traditions you hold dear disappear. I was feeling blah, my spinal pain ramping up. We had always gone to the concert and lighting of the Christmas Tree in Martin Place, but this year, I wondered if I should go at all. There was track work scheduled and limited trains to the city. I didn’t want to let my daughter down, so I announced our attendance, and discovered that a dear friend I don’t get to see often was going with her kids and partner. We organized to travel in together. We talked of our dreams for the future, our triumphs and struggles. We found our way to the old GPO building, and decided to grab something to eat before heading out to the concert. Our girls were impressed by the linen tablecloths, and atmosphere, and also the attention they received from the staff. They politely asked for soft drinks, and the adults enjoyed a NZ red. I looked around the table, and saw love, pure and unadulterated love. It was a beautiful feeling. We wove through the crowds and watched the tree light up, fireworks exploding overhead. We walked around town, delighted that David Jones had a fabulous bear-themed window display this year! A cathedral built of lights ran along Pitt St Mall, as did Christmas trees in pots.
The girls climbed, skipped and sang joyfully, and I paused to take in the scene. This would be up there with one of the happiest nights of my life. All unscripted, unplanned and easy. Everyone happy to go with the flow. Even the long train ride from Central became fun, after we started singing ‘A Good Heart’ by Feargal Sharkey, and the whole carriage joined in! I found him on YouTube, and we went through his back catalogue. I wonder where he is now? Traipsing home after midnight, after a special night with friends, I smiled. It felt like Christmas.