A Designer Christmas

The music came drifting into my consciousness as I pushed my way through the tinsel trimmed chaos onto a department store escalator. "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas'. I laughed for Christmas is not little. It's big these days. Very big.

The range of jolly merchandise is big. Take candy canes. Shops sell big, little, peppermint, butterscotch and gourmet candy canes. You can even buy sugar free doggy candy canes for your picky pooch.

Cash register queues are big. One queue I stood in was so long I thought the Red Cross should have set up a tent half way to give shoppers sufficient nourishment to survive the ordeal.

Then there is the matter of cost. And when the words 'cost' and 'Christmas ' are linked in one sentence, we are talking 'big'. Bigger than Ben Hur with bells on his toes.

While waiting for my credit card to be beaten to death, I noticed a small display box on the counter. Somehow this odd little box of Yuletide merchandise represented the very essence of the modern Christmas.

The box contained elegant ,sterling silver Christmas tree hairclips, priced at only $9,99 and charmingly described as 'stocking fillers'. STOCKING FILLERS!! You'd need 500 to fill a small sock. A full stocking would set you back a good $10,000. And what a gift! Stylish, tasteful and useless 364 days of the year.

That's when I realised what we are trying to do these days. We are not celebrating Christmas any more.

We're trying to celebrate THE DESIGNER CHRISTMAS. We are trying to conjure up a jolly Christmas spirit with gourmet cakes, cordon bleu turkeys, professionally wrapped up-market gifts, expensive cards, elegant table settings and clipped and shaped designer trees. And it doesn't always work. It's hard to be jolly through clenched teeth brought on by severe Yuletide stress.

In my childhood, we had a little Christmas. The Christmas tree was, at best, shonky. Propped up with bricks in a bucket, it leaned to one side. And it's acquisition was iffy. We pinched it. You could then. But there were problems involved. My father was the local police Sergeant in a country town. But mum would work on him for months.

'We're not pinching a tree from the state forest' he'd complain. 'Not from the state forest' she replied appalled. 'I'm thinking of one of those strays that's wandered out to the side of the road.'

Midnight. One week before Christmas they'd be driving out to a quarry in the bush. 'Bloody lovely' says father,' bloody lovely it'd be if the local police sergeant is arrested for pinching a Christmas tree.' 'Who's on duty?' asks Mum. 'I am' says father. End of argument. But ever impatient, he'd slam the boot down on the tree. So we always had a shonky, leaning, decapitated Christmas tree. And loved it.

Then there was the chook. Roast chicken was a luxury. People often lopped the head off their own chickens. A friend of my mothers rang one time saying 'Kath. I've got to kill Rosie. I can't do it. Come and help.' This friend was the wife of a local doctor. In the end, they finished off the chook. They anaesthetised it. On Christmas day, according to mum's friend, the chicken tasted like a roast cough jube. But it was eaten. You didn't waste chickenthen. And the whole family enjoyed a good nap after lunch.

Perhaps we'd be better off if we could get back to a little Christmas. A merry little Christmas. How do you do it? As they sing in the song 'We'll have to muddle through somehow'. And actually enjoy it.

copyright Kerry Cue