Flowering in December

The Old Australian Ways

The London lights are far abeam
Behind a bank of cloud
Along the shore the gas lights gleam,
The gale is piping loud;
And down the Channel, groping blind,
We drive her through the haze
Towards the land we left behind -
The good old land of 'never mind',
And old Australian ways.

The narrow ways of English folk
Are not for such as we;
They bear the long-accustomed yoke
Of staid conservancy:
But all our roads are new and strange
And through our blood there runs
The vagabonding love of change
That drove us westward of the range
And westward of the suns.

The city folk go to and fro
Behind the prison's bars,
They never feel the breezes blow
And never see the stars;
They never hear in blossomed trees
The music low and sweet
Of wild birds making melodies
Nor catch the little laughing breeze
That whispers in the wheat

Our fathers came of roving stock
That could not fixed abide:
And we have followed field and flock
Since e'er we learned to ride;
By miner's camp and shearing shed,
In land of heat and drought
We followed where our fortunes led,
With fortune always on ahead
And always further out.

The wind is in the barley grass
The wattles are in bloom;
The breezes greet us as they pass
With honey-sweet perfume;
The parakeets go screaming by
With a flash of golden wing
And from the swamp the wild ducks cry
Their long-drawn note of revelry
Rejoicing at the Spring.

So throw the weary pen aside
And let the papers rest,
For we must saddle up and ride
Towards the blue hill's breast
And we must travel far and fast
Across this rugged maze,
To find the Spring of Youth at last
And call back from the buried past
The old Australian ways.

When Clancy took the drover's track
In years of long ago
He drifted to the outer back
Beyond the Overflow;
By rolling plain and rocky shelf,
With stockwhip in his hand,
He reached at last, oh lucky elf,
The Town of Come-and-Help-Yourself
In Rough-and-Ready Land.

And if it be that you would know
The tracks he used to ride,
Then you must saddle up and go
Beyond the Queensland side -
Beyond the reach of rule or law
To ride the long day through,
In Nature's homestead - filled with awe:
You then might see what Clancy saw
And know what Clancy knew

by Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson

return to Advent Calendar


Breaking Traditions

'We have a fixed vision of Christmas riveted in the back of our collective Aussie Psyche. We believe that on Christmas Day the family should get together and enjoy a meal. It's a simple enough concept. But no tradition could have built into it a greater serving of stress, anxiety and disappointment all suffered in the name of rigid expectation.

This 'traditional Christmas' suited Australia some time, way back, when the family consisted of Mum, Dad, the kids, the dog and a rotary clothesline held together in one place with one television set and the occasional visit from a knitting nanna. Now we are trying to fit into this tradition a whole new range of family structures with the likes of part-time kids, step-kids, part-time parents, part-time parent's partners, ex-spouses, ex in-laws, adult kids, adult kid's partners and nannas in jogging shoes. Not only are we meant to get all these folk together in one place on Christmas Day - a concept which is nigh on impossible - the whole bizarre exercise is underwritten with the outrageous expectation that everyone should then enjoy themselves.'

From 'Australia Unbuttoned ' (Penguin) by Kerry Cue

Permission to break from traditions that have become a burden

When the subject of Christmas came up in early November my daughter asked if this year we could 'not have a Christmas Tree'. As a little girl she loved the small Christmas tree but the allure has long gone. The year she realized how 'small' it looked, appreciated that the ornaments were getting past their best the magic evaporated. Initially I felt strangely sad but not any more. I have raised my children to be creative and to challenge the status quo.

"This year we will not have a Christmas Tree!" I pronounced in response to her plea.
"And no decorations!" she challenged, sensing that I would try to sneak in a few on the dresser.
"No decorations! And, I will not display Christmas Cards either" I added.
"Fill the house with good quality flowers instead" she suggested.
"Vases full of the very best" we agreed.

Having permission to break from the traditions is very important. Tradition can become a burden. Many people cannot cope with the expectations that are associated with this season while others do not want to get caught up in the blatant commercialism.

That is okay!

If Christmas tradition fills your heart with joy go right ahead and enjoy the season. Equally, if the symbols do not resonate you do not have to feel as though you are living in a parallel universe. Quite simply, you have permission to come up with something different, to invent new customs and practices.

Creating New Traditions

1. Kerry Cue helps set the tone with two delightfully irreverent pieces. 'A Designer's Christmas' confirms that we would be better to have 'a little', uncomplicated Christmas, while 'Tis the Season to Add Spin' reminds me that it is not so much that I don't like Christmas, it is just that I am not particularly keen on the whole marketing spin.

2. Try Augustine's listening method of clearing your mind to open the side of the brain that is receptive to the challenge of leaping outside squares.

3. Practice making bush tea in a billy and meditate over a cup beside the billagong. Afterall there has never been a better time to break for tea and to be open for a light bulb moment.

4. Ron Grimes teaches in the Department of Religion and Culture at Wilfed Laurier University in Canada. For many years he has run a "Ritual Studies Laboratory" with his students. Because he is concerned about being lumped in with the fad for New Age therapies he was reluctant to talk about what he does. Influenced by anthropology and the theatre work of Grotowski, his approach bears little resemblance to the popular "new religions" springing up in North America. What Grimes describes here is the serious work of uncovering (not inventing) symbols that can do meaningful work in our everyday life. The collective, flexible, improvisational quality of this process is, for me, an encouraging example of the possibilities for new vernacular ceremonies.

Explore this award winning site and test run some of the ideas. Try creating your own spirit garden where you can dance on the edge or cook up a storm in the vernacular kitchen where there is homemade music and dance. There is a site map that makes it easy to navigate this fascinating site. Just remember to make it a ritual to come back to Soul Food to open the next day of the Advent Calendar.

Associated Links

Story of the Red Waratah

Breaking Tradition - Do something for yourself
Bringing Family Traditions to Life
New holiday traditions for untraditional families
Family rituals are like children: cherish them but be flexible