Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guest post: Hazel Edwards on Christmas

Photo of Hazel's grandson Henry, by Mary Broome

Australian author Hazel Edwards ) is best known for her picture book series ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake’.‘ Picture book apps Feymouse’ is just released on Itunes. She also co-authored the YA novel ‘f2m;the boy within’ about transitioning gender with Ryan Kennedy and a documentary is in progress. An Antarctic expeditioner, Hazel has researched in unusual places.‘Writing a Non boring Family History’ and ‘Authorpreneurship’ workshops are linked to her e and print books. E-books are available from her online store.

Today she is kindly contributing this lovely guest post, on the experience, foodie and otherwise, of Christmas in her family. Enjoy!

The Gift of Experiences,

by Hazel Edwards.

My family tends to give experiences or ideas as gifts, even at Christmas. Other times , we draw our own birthday cards and often hand-make presents like chocolates or give books and games.

So we’ve been through the I Owe U massage vouchers when son did the massage course (that was good value). Or the ‘Around Australia’ bus ticket. Mediterranean cooking lessons and beer-tastings. A certain amount of self interest on the part of the giver for the father and son Chinese cooking classes. My husband makes the Christmas pudding and everybody stirs and has a wish.

The shares in a goat for village charity didn’t go down so well with the Under Tens. But then the 10 year old recorded and accompanied his own song ‘Kim’ for his Mum’s birthday. And Christmas Carols in the park opposite , with candles and neighbours ,were fun for all ages. Each Christmas morning my husband plays me ‘The Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s ‘Messiah ‘because I only like music with 'oomph'.

Stories, words and books have always been a high priority, even those recycled or handmade. As a family we often ‘do the trivial pursuit questions’ after dinner, so the 12 year old made up a quiz for his grandfather’s birthday and we all took part. There was a certain bias towards soccer questions.
A great gift for a whole family to make is the Compliments Jar with a specialized compliment wrapped around each appropriate number of Minties. ‘If you’re feeling down or blue, have a compliment or two.’ Gets harder as people get older, of course. We’ve never done the reverse which is the Insults Jar…but.
Each child’s birthday I write a photographic story. ‘ Henry Garnet the Serial Sock Puller ‘was for his 2nd birthday. The secret to those stories is to write around your existing photos and include every member of the family. And read -share the books as part of the family’s traditions.
Our children used to accompany their Dad to the rehab hospital on his Christmas early morning rounds. The patients liked having little kids give out the cards and small gifts. The only problem was when my husband also played Father Christmas at the Christmas party ,and the children recognized his shoes.

Our Christmas decorations have shrunk across the years as friends turn to e-mail. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher, so we always read the Christmas story. I put up a Nativity scene with Baby Cheesel (Jesus) as my children called him. Then my children went to a Jewish school , and their Orthodox friends didn’t ‘do Christmas’, So we have shared the experience of dressing the Christmas tree with Nicky whose Dutch family were Orthodox and they introduced us to Hannukah which goes for six days of gift giving.

For years we had the Stick Christmas tree as my children called it. Formerly a shop window prop, I was fond of that leaf-less tree and we all shared its makeover with Christmas tinsel until last year when we replaced it with a fold out, instant decorated Chinese instruction kit which goes up in 2 minutes.
The youngest child always gives out the Christmas presents from underneath the tree, once we’ve finished lunch.

Our favourite Aunty loved the ‘butter’ sauce on the Christmas pudding. A non-drinker, church organist and a Methodist , even when the brandy ignited on the ‘butter sauce’ and set off the fire alarm, she didn’t realize.

Always diplomatic, she said, ’My eyesight at 88 is not what it used to be. What a lovely family Christmas dinner, especially the butter sauce.’’


  1. Sounds lovely, Hazel! I don't do Christmas either, of course, bring Jewish, and we tend to keep the gift giving for children- some holidays involve new clothes and Chanukah involves money. On Purim you give gifts of food to your family and friends. Making your own is nice, though. I make chocolates and jewellery for my friends "of the Nazarene persuasion" and give virtual gifts of goats and such. My friend who loves feeding people is getting a virtual food basket. I, too, have been known to write things(your grandson is lucky to ave a children's writer for a nana). One year I wrote a bunch of Mary Sue stories in which my female friends all got to be in a story with their hero of choice ( one of them wanted King Arthur, which was fun).

  2. Dear Hazel - as with so much in your life - your Christmases sound so inventive!! My favourite Christmas memory was the excitement of seeing what came out of those pillow cases - often the last to appear was a squashed apricot or nectarine! My mother seemed to equate the new season's fruit with Christmas!! Often a larger 'special' gift - such as the first bike - was hidden somewhere and a piece of string the only indication of more to come! Lost in the excitement of moment meant that Mum or Dad had to 'find' the string and start the hunt for what lay at the end!! It's a lovely time with children to spoil. For me Christmas is about catching up with friends neglected throughout the year! I must give you a ring Hazel!!