The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.
(Phillips Brooks 1835 – 1893)
As the days tick on, it gets closer and closer to that great season of the year when avid country decorators everywhere really ‘lose our heads’ and go to town with finery and fripperies to mark the festive season. And why not! It’s that special time of the year for family and friends to gather … a season of reconciliation and love, of goodwill and boundless sharing.
As the world becomes a faster and more reckless place, Christmas is fast becoming a time of defiance too. In the face of all that modern times and ‘un-Christmas’ thinking dishes out, we avid believers hold fast to the truth, the meaning, the traditions, the rituals and the essence of what it means to celebrate the birth, the love of family and friends … to extend goodwill, peace and understanding. Granted, in so many quarters the execution of such things becomes a little more difficult and challenging with the passing of each year, but just as love is not a feeling but an act of one’s will, so, too, is the celebration of Christmas, as one determines to embrace a steely resolve and celebrate with compassion and love – no matter what!
Avid country aficionados who have done just this are always encouraged, affirmed and embraced, drawing encouragement from each other to fly in the face of the modern ideals of paring down and doing away with … to embrace a passion for everything to do with Christmas as traditions are rekindled, and new ones are made.
For Julie Staib and family of Lorn (NSW) there is nothing more magical than Christmastime when children’s faces are bright with excitement and joy; when the decorating, cooking and wrapping of presents are all an essential part of the season’s delight. Over twenty years ago, Julie – who was a member of the Australian Army at the time – met, fell in love with, and married an American Marine. A week after their wedding the couple moved to the United States where, over the ensuing years, Julie was to become immersed in celebrating the seasons the American way – from Halloween to Thanksgiving and ‘the big one’ … Christmas. This started Julie on the path of crafting things by hand with which to decorate the home and to scout the antique stores and secondhand outlets for vintage festive treasures.
Ultimately returning to Australia where Julie and Mike have settled with their two children, the Staibs brought with them many personal Christmas traditions – inspired by those of North America – and now annually combine them with typical Australian ways of celebrating the seasons. As Julie explains, one such family tradition is the annual putting-up of the tree. “We always start in the last two weeks of November. Mike makes the popcorn and Tizanna, Kendall and I start to thread it to use as garlands to go around our eight foot Christmas tree. I think sometimes we eat more than we thread! The lights go on first, then the popcorn, then the gold beads and now – the really fun part – all the decorations … from the kids’ handmade ornaments to special Mum and Dad ornaments and others that hold special places in our hearts”.
The children have their very own Christmas trees in their rooms which are each decorated according to a special theme. Then in the kitchen there’s Julie’s favourite tree which she decorates with gingerbread men ornaments plus things from around the cookroom – from cookie cutters to tea strainers. A collection of Christmas picture frames is displayed atop a vintage sewing machine and expands each year as new additions are acquired. Many other parts of the house are decorated and adorned, the Staibs being committed to keeping up the many American traditions they love. “Although the weather is not cold and snowy outside and with new friends and neighbours, everything else is the same, just the way we like it … magical!”