Christmas in Australia is a Travel at Home experience, because almost all of the traditions surrounding the holiday have been transplanted from elsewhere. Roast dinners, images of snow-men and reindeer, songs about a “White Christmas” — all of these are incongruous to our experience of a sweltering, summertime, Christmas Down Under.
So it was in this spirit of doing something outside our normal reality that we decided to visit a Christmas Tree Farm in the lead-up to December 25.
The plantation was located on a bush road about 20 minutes from us, and it was immediately clear that the field of young pine trees did not match the towering, grey gums surrounding it.
We observed our surroundings and these differences together and set off to choose a tree under the scorching sun.
The farmer let the kids climb onto his ride-on mower and even hold the chain-saw. They watched, fixated, as he cut down our chosen tree.
It wasn’t especially big and we were relieved to discover that it fit into the back of the car. The tree immediately infused the vehicle with its fresh fragrance, and in the heat we knew it was imperative to get it into water before it “got dead” as the children so eloquently stated.
While driving home I admitted that I didn’t really know why people brought trees into their houses at Christmas time. Some research later revealed that the tradition has many different roots (so to speak!) and that many of them have nothing to do with Christmas.
Our outing was a fun diversion which got the kids thinking about cultural traditions, particularly since we undertook this activity the day after Chanukkah ended.
It was also a great chance to discuss similarities and differences, and be reminded about what plants need.
(The kids also took the opportunity to kick up a dust storm, and they drenched themselves while attempting to water the tree; full disclosure).
Our efforts to erect and decorate a traditional Christmas Tree were not immediately successful.
But as a way to engage curious kids in the world around them, it was a super undertaking.