From a white Christmas in Washington, to the darkness of December in London, to midnight Mass in the southern hemisphere—Denis Fitzgerald reflects on the importance of family at Christmas time.
Christmas has such prominence in our year that the stories of our Christmas celebrations over the years are one way of marking our broader journey.
Family Christmases in Essendon, year after year with the fixed points of my own parents, ‘Gran’, brothers and sisters; with St Therese’s Church celebrations; with presents, meals and overwhelming conviviality.
1976 in London, in the cold, where TS Elliot’s The Journey of the Magi took on new life—a journey, guided by hope, and in a cold environment.
Establishing our own Christmas traditions as a young family, linked to broader gatherings, but then as a smaller team as we celebrated a white Christmas in Washington DC, to the delight of the children.
A tropical Christmas was different again—with midnight Mass a pleasant interlude, and much more sensible than gathering in the middle of the day.
And as the wheel of time continued to turn, our linkages with broader family were re-knitted; and the families of our own children, moving along their own trajectories, were woven into the fabric of the season.
And from time to time, the pattern of the years was disrupted—sometimes at a personal level, sometimes in the community—by natural disasters in our harsh Australian summer; by wars. And sometimes by delightful surprises: such as when the Dominican community at our local parish decided to dedicate the Christmas collection—a significant part of their annual income—to the parish asylum seeker support program.
A time of peace, and of disruption; of joy and hope.
Denis Fitzgerald is Executive Director of Catholic Social Services, Victoria.