14 November 2007

Preparing for Christmas

We started our Christmas planning yesterday. Not here at home, but at the Centre where I work. Our two main projects are Santa's Helpers and a Christmas breakfast. Both of them are a big part of this caring and open community and both require a lot of organisation.

Of course the end result of both projects is quite simple. Santa's Helpers enables us to give gifts of toys, books, games and clothes to children in our town who might otherwise go without, and we give a hamper of Christmas food, including ham and a few treats like coupons for haircuts and a box of chocolates, to their parents. Our Christmas breakfast is simply that. A breakfast that we cook for the town residents. Our local politicians come along to help with the cooking and we serve all who come along. We encourage those who are living alone or away from their families, and the homeless to join us, as well as town residents who want to meet and get to know people they otherwise wouldn't meet. Last year we served over 350 people.

And the best part is - everything, every toy, game, book, box of chocolates, bike, all clothes, bags, ham, drink, haircut, bread, salad, fruit, yoghurt, water, softdrink, eggs, croissant, and all the goodies that make up the hampers and the breakfast, is donated by the wonderful people in our town.

Christmas has always been a time of family get-togethers for me. But it can be a time of sadness and stress for a lot of people. We see that in the work we do at the Centre. Some people have too much and seem to drown in their excess and some don't have enough and feel guilty and sad because of it. We help redress those problems by encouraging those who can donate to do so, and we give those donations to people who really need them. The rest is used in a breakfast of celebrations on Christmas morning where everyone comes to sit and eat together. Often Santa calls in to have breakfast with us after he's finished visiting all the children in Australia.

Hanno and I are having a dinner with our sons a week or so before Christmas as they are both working on Christmas day. On Christmas day we will be up early to help set up for the breakfast, to cook, serve and clean up and to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas with the people we'll meet at the breakfast. It will be a very simple Christmas for us. We aren't exchanging gifts but we'll be richer for the experience of it.

What are your Christmas plans?

graphic from all posters.com


  1. This years Christmas will be very different and I hope the start of something beautiful for our family. Last year my husband decided he did not want to celebrate. He does not like the commercialism that the holiday has come to represent. The year before last I was in route across the country and therefore did not really celebrate.

    This year my husband has decided that we can celebrate. We do not have to let it become materialistic so to speak. We will be having 2 or 3 families over that do not have family locally (we do not either) and my childrens gifts will be few but made with love. We decided not to purchase gifts and we would like to try and do that from here on out. Jeff is making Emma a cradle for her doll baby and I'll be making the bedding to go with it. He will also make an old fashioned tool box for Jonathan...I'll probably use some scraps and make him a train pillow.

    What is it like to celebrate Christmas in the spring? I ask because so many of us (if not all) associate winter, snow, cold (not that you get much of that I suppose) with the holiday season.

  2. Hello Tami, it sounds like you'll have a lovely Christmas with your family. I'm sure Emma and Jonathan will love their homemade gifts.

    It will be high summer at Christmas time here and at our place the temperature will be anywhere between 30 and 40C (86-104F), and it will be humid. In the past, many Australians had the full hot traditional Christmas turkey or ham lunch or dinner, nowadays we tend more towards seafood and cold ham, chicken and turkey with salads. There are lots of prawns and lobsters eaten on Christmas day here. Our desserts are usually pavlova or cheesecake, or even frozen christams cake - which is ice cream with dried fruits and brandy added.

    In winter here it's quite cold, but we never have the huge snowfalls you have in America. We have many areas in Australia where it does snow, but only in winter.

    Summer is our cricket season. Cricket is a ball game similar to baseball but which can go on for days. Many families play a game of cricket in the backyard after Christmas lunch or they go to the beach and play cricket, or watch it on TV. For me, and many other Australians, summer means cricket. So I guess Christmas here is a time of parties and visiting, spending time at the beach and reconnecting with family. Australian schools have their longest break of the year then. Christmas school holidays start (depending on the State and type of school) in early December and go through till late January. Lots of families use this time to go away camping or to visit family interstate. It's a really lovely time of year.

  3. I am not really a Christmas person, working many years in retail turned me into a cynic.
    BUT this year will be different because it will be the first Christmas with my grandson :)Although at 10 months he will have no clue what is going on (and will probably just want to eat the wrapping paper) just spending the day with him and 2 of my 3 kids will be wonderful. I am hoping to see my eldest DD in the new year while I am on holiday.
    This is the first Christmas I will make some of my own gifts. I am making dishcloths and aprons for my sisters and sis in laws.
    A few years ago I spent $3.5K on gifts!!!! I can assure you that will never happen again. Last year was $1K but this year I will spend less even though there will be more family to buy for.
    We have not made any set plans for Chistmas lunch but it will probably be at my BIL & SIL's place because they have a pool ;)
    Lunch is always a very simple affair with each of us contributing part to make up the whole.

  4. On the day after Thanksgiving, the children and I will unpack the Christmas tree and all the handmade and special decorations we have collected. We love to surprise Dad when he comes home from work with a decorated lite Christmas tree. That night we will back out first batch of Christmas cookies.

    We are trying to teach the children that it's not about how much you get, but what you give with your heart that is important. (Rhonda, forgive me, I wish I was better at expressing my sentiments) We will spend our evenings during the next few weeks making special homemade presents for grandmas, grandpas and aunts and uncles as well as close family friends. This year our gift will be a honey sugar scrub and a hand knit cotton scrub cloth.

    Our children live very simple lives here on our farm. They love to garden, so their stockings will be filled with vegetable and flower seeds,work gloves, and row markers that they can decorate. They are longing to learn to knit dishcloths so I will make some knitting needles of their own from dowels and add some cotton yarn. I knit their mittens every year and put those into their stockings along with hats and new scarves, if they need them.

    We have a 7yo son who has an amazing love of reading and keeping him in books is always a challenge. We will give him the Ralph Moody Little Britches series.

    My 5yo daughter wants to learn to stitch like her momma, so I have recycled a small basket to turn into a sewing basket just her size with all the sewing notions she will need to make a small project. I am refinishing a second hand doll cradle and I have already made a new doll quilt.

    We always roast a duck on Christmas day. Almost all of the vegetables will be from our garden. We don't travel far since we have animals to take care of, but we love having family and friends visit for hot chocolate and cookies and cakes.

    Rhonda, Thanks for explaining the idea of Christmas in warm weather. I had the same question as Tami.

  5. Hi there,
    I just found your blog re sumple savings and LOve love love it. I havent read much as Im out the door, but it is sooooo in tune with my philospys. I will bookmark it and read it when I have more time(!!) You might like to pop into my blog some time, it is still new and I have plenty more to add (when my camera attachment is fixed!) http://simplethings-craftycherry.blogspot.com/

  6. I am really looking forward to Christmas this year as I will have my three daughters home and one grand-daughter. I am aiming to keep things very simple this year and aim to give the older girls gifts of seeds(as they both live in overseas countries) and I am making my grand-daughters presents; I think a box holder and drawing paper.

    We will be celebrating Christmas on the back deck and eating seafood, as it is likely to be very hot in Queensland.

    I love what you are doing Rhonda-Jean that sounds so wonderful. The true meaning of christmas.

    Come visit me some time......my blog is

    Love Sandra

  7. Hi Rhonda Jean :) I hope that you and Hanno have a lovely Christmas ~ the plans you have made are "other minded" and that is just what Christmas is all about! God was thinking of us when He gave His best that first Christmas.

    I have enjoyed the responses to this entry! Every one was a joy to read :) And I have to say to Christine that I think you express your thoughts in a lovely way.

    Our Christmas will be very different and very the same - lol. We have all of our close family in the county, so there will be lots of family celebrations. We are also making our own traditions (our little family unit) and trying new things each year to see what we like.

    We will set up and decorate our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. I love the delight on my sweeties' faces as each ornament comes out of the box! And there are so many memories, so many fun stories to tell.

    And then we will spend the month celebrating Jesus' birthday, baking and creating things to share, and studying Christmas traditions from around the world in our little homeschool. I can't wait! Love to you! Q

  8. I love that you and those that work at your center give so much to your community; that is truly the Spirit of Christmas!! (and it sounds like it lasts all year) Sharon

  9. I like your new photo, Rhonda.

    We like to donate food, toys and other gifts to our local salvos at Christmas. It really gives us joy to know that it will help make the difference for someone.

    We will be enjoying a low key Christmas with family and friends (especially those with no extended family nearby). My parents open their house for the day and people just drop by all day.

    On the menu will be lots of salads, seafood and lovely summer fruits like mangoes. We usually swim in my parents pool (if there has been enough rain to fill it) and play backyard cricket.

    This year we have all resolved to make our gifts for each other.

  10. I haven't always struggled with the commercialism of our American Christmas. When our older 3 were young, I know that too much emphasis was placed on stuff that has been long forgotten. Now that we are older and wiser :) and have three more precious little ones (born in China), I am focusing on the real meaning of Christmas and our wonderful family.

    Christmas at the Strickland house this year will include a Jesse Tree devotional every day, lots of homemade gifts, cookies and kisses. We will also rejoice when all of our 6 children are together under our roof.

    Santa will still come, but with a very light load. Christmas Eve will be spent at a candlelight service at our church and with sweet family.

    Isn't it fun to give someone a simple gift that you have made? I love to pray over that person as I stitch away on whatever I am making. This holiday season my family and I will be focused on what really matters - Christ and family.
    Mary in Amarillo

  11. I'm going to be away travelling over Christmas and New Year as it's the only chance I can get to take a good few weeks off work in one stretch. I'll be spending time with family before and after my holidays and will make a special meal when I return home.

    RJ, I love your new pic - you look v v glamorous! Hanno is a lucky man!!! ;)

  12. Thank you Rhonda Jean. I must admit to my ignorance. I had no idea that parts of Australlia can receive snow. I guess I assumed that with the type of wildlife you have you saw much warmer weather year round.

  13. I love your new picture. It is so festive with your red top.
    Becky K.

  14. Hmmm, blogger isn't letting me post my comment today :(

  15. Last Christmas I read the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. It changed the way I looked at the festive period and sowed the seeds for making changes in other areas of my life too.

    This year I'm giving books with a Christmas theme but I'm giving them at the beginning of Dec. I'm hoping to encourage some festive cheer throughout the month. For the ladies I'm giving the Maeve Binchy collection of Christmas short stories and the men are getting Alan Titchmarsh's Fill my Stocking. I've found some lovely children's books too.

    On the actual day I'm giving handmade edible gifts.

    Last year I gave a few handmade gifts but got a lukewarm reception. But I'm going to persevere. There isn't really anything anyone in my family NEEDS.

    We will have our usual turkey dinner but I'm hoping to simplify it as much as possible.

    I love reading about how people will be spending Christmas.

  16. i absolutely love this post-the centre's plans for christmas just warmed my heart. I am so glad for what will be provided for those individuals and that so many people from different walks of life will have the opportunity to come together. I have been posting about Christmas, and you're post is a perfect of example of the beauty of what Christmas should be about. Thank you....

  17. Looking forward to Christmas myself, this year, as family will be coming to the farm. My girls wll be here. Hoping it is not going to be too hot under the pergola as that is the only big area, apart from the carport, to set up tables for between 20 & 30 people. I am looking forward to cooking for everyone, as I haven't done family Christmas for a while.I usually give the girls some money and a hamper of non-perishables as presents. Hope everyone has a Happy Christmas this year, despite all the world problems that keep on happening. Where is our humanity and simple living?


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