My mission this Christmas issue was to gather some sage advice around making the most out of reunions with family and friends. How to avoid the potholes. It got me thinking. About me and my relationship to Christmas.
I don’t know about you but I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I really don’t want to sound all Scrooge or Grinch. But maybe I am. Maybe I need a jolly good sage smudging, or a sneaky little exorcism of the Ghosts of Christmas past. I’ll share some of where I’m coming from and you decide.
I grew up experiencing lavish Christmas events of note. ‘Traditional’. Whose tradition it was I’m now not sure. Copious amounts of beautifully wrapped gifts, an elaborately dressed table heaving with food. We probably would have said we loved Christmas. I truly dearly and deeply love and appreciate my late parents and all they did for us. Even when times were tight on the farm and they still heaped it on.
But here comes the Grinch in me again. The politics of a complicated Mumma who had strong views about the extended family were tricky. Living with that same stressed-out mother for about a month in her pursuit of her own concept of perfect and having this as a role model for family Christmas was not peace on earth or entirely festive. I know. Grinch, Grinch, Grinch, Grinch, Grinch.
More Grinch time again. The commercialism of Christmas leaves me cold but I still play the game. The getting of more ‘stuff’ when I really yearn for a backpack and the peace on earth bit makes me feel uneasy.
I’ve wandered a lot in my adult life so many festive seasons have been spent with bunches of fabulous crazies in random places. These are still my favourites and what I aspire to these days.
Once on my own on the French Alps skiing all day when I was an au pair girl. Many times in the village in Uganda in a treehouse we built on Lake Victoria with our adopted American family. Leslie eating food filled with love and laughing with whoever we had gathered from around the globe. A couple of times next to the tree climbing lions on the Uganda/Congo border watching our mates the lions hang out. The last one in Africa in a beautiful lodge called Wildwaters that we built on an island in the middle of the Nile River Uganda roasting turkeys on a spit to feed a house full of guests. The machete our rockstar Ugandan chef Wambogga got out to carve the turkey still makes me chuckle and cringe simultaneously.
Sometimes I even remember to remember Jesus. I’m actually a devotee of Jesus so I’m tempted to exaggerate and tell you he’s my No 1 priority at this time of year, but this would not always be truthful. You see I’m also a big fan of the truth. So don’t get me started on the inner conflict of the Santa scenario.
If you too have a life, views and family that has the Christmas status ‘It’s complicated’, then this is for you and me. A little inspiration from people a lot wiser and funnier than me that may be of help to us both. I want to live and love what Christmas is really about and be truly grateful, festive, forgiving and free. If you do too then read on.
Koro Morehu Munro, research and development advisor for the Wairoa community
Koro Morehu has family returning from overseas and all his children and grandchildren will be at their Wairoa home this year. His first pointer is PLANNING IS ESSENTIAL. He started talking of filling the pool, putting up sunshades and tents everywhere and I started to smile wide.
On their first night together the family sit and wananga and hear from everyone – whakawhanaungatanga. They then plan their time together. They cook outside on the BBQ and hangi cooker and keep the kai simple. Visitors are welcome but the family don’t travel anywhere unless it’s essential. They set a theme for each Christmas – this year “families are forever.” Their gathering is about connecting, listening and learning. They are full of laughter, kids playing, music and the odd cold one. They are always grateful for everything.
Louise Stobart from Birdwoods Gallery, Café & Sweet Shop outside Havelock North
Louise came at this from a hospo point of view. She said “Book. Book. Book.” Make sure you book in advance if you are planning on eating out to avoid stress. She advised to be chilled and patient over the busy time in cafes and restaurants. She pointed out what we all know – that there is a real lack of hospo staff NZ wide so supporting local with your advance notice and also patience will go a long way. For large groups of friends or family she suggested taking a picnic and heading to your favourite beach. “Head to Bellatinos or your favourite food store or fish and chip shop, stock up, park up at the beach and enjoy each other.”
Mary-anne Scott, award-winning author, from Havelock North
Mary-anne said that spending Christmas with family is her ultimate festive joy. She noted that for some years, for various reasons, some family members can’t make it. Her top tip is “to chill out and let adults – both young and old – make their own decisions.” She then said, “It’s good to say this out loud … I must take my own advice.”
Kaye McGarva from Muse Art Gallery in Havelock North
Kaye initially thought she didn’t have anything insightful to say apart from what she thought was the obvious … don’t try to do too much. Simple wisdom. It may become the mantra for many. This year Kaye’s Christmas is in Auckland with her partner Richard’s family. Instead of giving gifts they have decided to have Christmas lunch at a fancy restaurant. This will be a first for them so she is hoping it will be as relaxing and enjoyable as it seems in her mind.
“Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”The Grinch
Mandy Wilson, BayBuzz Sales & Marketing Legend from Hastings
Mandy has a big family and they all get excited about all being together. Her kids, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters and partners all usually head to her brother’s bach in Waihi or hire one at Waimarama. They all bring food and just have open food for all. They cook turkey in the oven and pork, plus lamb on the spit, fire up the BBQ and make salads and play volleyball and rounders. They keep the peace by lots of love and laughs, no judgement, and basically they are happy and high on life and all so grateful for having each other.
So there it is treasures. Keep it simple. Be organised. Chill out. Be grateful. Keep the main thing the main thing. Make the most out of this coming season to be jolly.
If you are one of those people with a super smooth sailing life and a harmonious family full of happy times … then well done, you treasures. I’m so happy for you! Please write your secrets in the comments box on the BayBuzz website. We are coming to your place next year.
Love Kate xxx
Kate McLeay is a mindfulness mentor, yoga teacher and retreat host based out at Cape South Country Estate and Wellness Retreat. www.katemcleay.com