It's the giving, not the gifts

As we approach Christmas, Aurora asked people in our community ‘what does Christmas mean to you?’ These are their reflections.

Tara Isbel- Year 5

Christmas means family. Before we go to see my paternal grandparents out of town, we open our presents from our maternal grandparents in town with our cousins. A week or so later we go to see my paternal grandparents and celebrate Christmas there with our other cousins. We go for walks or stay for dinner at our cousins’ house and it’s always really fun! I have always spent Christmas with family ever since I was born. That is why Christmas means family to me. 

Annie Portelli- Year 5

Christmas is about spending time with family, reminding ourselves about the birth of Jesus Christ, and to be happy. Some people might think that it is about getting presents and having Santa come to their house, but Christmas is about giving, family, and remembering Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. Every Christmas, some families don’t get anything at all, so I think everyone should be grateful for what they have at Christmas time. Christmas isn't about Christmas trees, decorations and getting new toys, because the real reason why Christmas is existing is because it is the celebration of Jesus’s birthday.

Baran Zanjani- Year 6

Christmas trees. Christmas lights. Christmas dinners. Christmas holidays. So many things we do all in that one month of December. Then you pack it all up, and the next week you have to go to work, or school, or any other life you had before that one holy month.  

What does Christmas mean to you? It seems like a question teachers would ask you for a Christmas essay. Your heart wants to say presents and candy canes, but because you want a good grade you say its Jesus’s birthday. For me, Christmas is about the spirit. The nostalgic feeling of the minty candy you melt in your mouth until it is as pointy as a needle. The nostalgic feeling of the out-of-tune Christmas songs everybody sings. My mother buying more than necessary ornaments and doing fun Christmas activities at school. Knowing that that year is nearly over, and a New Year awaits. 

Every Christmas, I am brought back into the memories of the years before, the one I spent in a plane, or the one when my grandparents were there. Each time I look at an object from Christmas I am suddenly filled with the colours and songs and that spirit of Christmas. There is no other way to explain it. It’s magical. Christmas is one month of magical trees and magical lights and magical dinners and magical holidays.

Isabel Allport

Christmas means a lot to me. It is an amazing and special celebration because we have the chance to remember and celebrate the time when Jesus was born. Christmas is such an exciting and fun time for everyone, as it is when people get a chance to spend quality, uninterrupted time with family. We all come together and share and make happy memories with each other. My favourite part of Christmas is having all my family together and then celebrating at the beach. We stay there for the whole day, have a barbecue and swim in the salt water to cool off. 

Christmas teaches us about gratitude and compassion and makes us reflect and think about those who are less fortunate. I believe Christmas is not just about receiving gifts but giving, not presents, but in other ways such as giving up your time to help those who need it most. Christmas is my favourite time of year.  


Presents, food, family gatherings, precious memories and so much more. That’s what Christmas means to so many people. Christmas is the best. It's such a special day. You hang out with your cousins and devour as much of the sumptuous feast as you can, you hear intriguing stories from relatives and bond over food comas. You pop Christmas crackers and read the silly jokes; you buy meaningful gifts for the ones you care about. You have awkward conversations with aunties. Light-hearted jokes turn into heated arguments and suddenly everyone is in separate rooms. We mentally prepare ourselves and our social batteries every year for this special day. And each time the night ends, we are exhausted and relieved the varying ideas of Christmas we hold so close to our chests aren’t always what we experience. In my opinion, Christmas is sometimes overrated.

Ariella Doyle – Year 7

I think Christmas is most definitely the best time of the year. To me, Christmas is about connection, love, and joy. It’s about showing people how much you love and care about them through gift giving and feeling appreciated as you receive gifts yourself. It’s about celebrating and appreciating faith, and the love and light it brings into our lives.

Hanging up Christmas decorations and blasting Christmas carols is the most wonderful, magical feeling. The magic and fun that comes from baking cookies to leave out for Santa, or from cracking a bon bon with a loved one is unlike anything else. I love getting to see all my family on Christmas and celebrate something so magical, because that’s what Christmas is.

Halle Johnson – Year 9

As the dusty boxes full of generations of handmade decorations, rolls of unused wrapping paper and coloured ribbons, gift stockings and Santa Claus hats are pulled out from storage, the Christmas spirit begins. Surfing Santa photos, seafood platters, shopping lists, gift wrapping, and beach swims dictate the first month of summer. All I Want For Christmas is on repeat, and you can’t help but sing along in the car and in the shops.

The morning of Christmas, the sun is blazing through our window, shining on our faces and our eager eyes. My siblings run downstairs to see if Santa has been; neatly packaged presents draped with gold materials are stacked inside our stockings – we scramble to see who has the biggest one. The smell of tinsel makes me smile, and the sound of laughter and joy fill my heart completely.

In our floral dresses and t-shirts, we jump into the burning hot car, the seatbelts zap our tanned skin as we drive to our grandparents’ house. An extravagant table spread awaits – meals to be shared and memories to be made. The crunch of pork crackling makes my mouth melt and drool for more, mango salad tastes like the essence of summer, the pavlova with berries and passionfruit dissolves in my mouth. Hugs and kisses are exchanged, and the next Christmas rush continues – our outing with the other side of the family.

Little cousins yell and scream as I am put in charge of them while the adults chat. Sausage sangers smeared with tomato sauce drip down onto my new dress and I feel officially full. Tiredness swarms everyone, and on the way home we fall asleep in the back of the car, snug with presents. A day of pure joy and excitement, and a day of gratitude for the amazing family I have.

Trish Coelho

Christmas for the Coelho family is about faith, family, and foundation. With family living and working throughout NSW it is our home base that centres us in celebrating our faith with the community, gathering around the dinner table, and reflecting on what the past year has been and how we will embark on the coming year.

For many years, our celebration as a family has begun with the Vigil Mass, celebrating with our faith community with whom we are constantly nourished. It is always delightful to reconnect with those who return home for Christmas. Living in a country town, many leave once they finish school, and it is during such times that a homecoming is made.

Christmas Day itself is filled with food, family and friends encapsulated in a sense of gratefulness. It provides an opportunity to reconnect and celebrate our small family traditions. The seats around the table are always shared with friends, with a real sense of welcoming and belonging.

The Christmas season allows us to unwind, relax and renew ready for the New Year. As a family we check in with each other around our goals, aspirations, and any challenges. Our family principles, established together many years ago, act as a basis for our family mission and a way of being. By reviewing these each Christmas season, we hope to see the compounding results of every day well lived.

Ryan Gato

A recent Tik-Tok video shows a person throwing  Christmas bauble into a loungeroom and quickly closing the door. An audible explosion follows, and the door reopens revealing the entire room glistening with tinsel, colourful ornaments, and shiny trees. Naturally, I laughed, but immediately started to panic, as I realised how quickly I needed to prepare for the ensuing rush of the season. It is so easy to get caught up in the panic this period brings. It’s as if we go mad and find ourselves exhausted by the time Christmas Day even arrives!

The beauty of Christmas for me, and dare I say a saving grace, is the season and process of Advent. A time that is joyous and filled with anticipation – one that enables us to slow down, be alert, and lift our gazes to the Christ child who reveals the essence of God’s divine, vulnerable, and unconditional love. It is being surrounded by loved ones in good cheer, in the excitement of children as they eagerly await the unwrapping of gifts. And it is too, in a glass of brandy after midnight Mass with my father.

Certain experiences in our lives always bring great clarity and focus. I was gifted the most valuable lesson through the pregnancy of our first child with a due date of 25 December. I vividly remember those nights where we both sat exhausted on the lounge, and I would reach over to my wife’s heavily pregnant belly and feel the sharp kick of the baby. A simple but profound reminder that this baby we were preparing for would forever change our lives – a real Advent moment.

The spirit of Christmas simply reminds me of God’s redemptive, self-emptying love in the form and wonder of a baby. Like all babies, the warmth of their smiles melts away our hardened hearts, they invite us to draw out what is best within us, and they bless us with the inner freedom to be ourselves. This is the gift of the Christ child at Christmas – God’s way of establishing peace in the open trust of a baby.

Sharon Murphy

About six years ago I lost my Christmas spirit. This was a noticeable shift for me because previously I could not get enough of Christmas. In the past, I’ve loved everything Christmassy – they all held cheery anticipation of the best that could come.

Then one year, as I noticed supermarket shelves filling with Christmas fare, I felt nothing. Well not quite nothing, more of a recoil. Christmas presents, decorations, gift wrap, even the movies, held no attraction for me. They seemed empty and baseless.

From that year, I replaced the evergreen of the Christmas tree with the evergreen of the Advent wreath. Instead of the red and silver of tree baubles there was the purple and pink of Advent candles. Of an evening I no longer gazed at the twinkle of tree lights but was mesmerised by the simple flicker of an Advent candle flame.

The glitz and glitter may have gone but what remained, and grew, was my sense of anticipation. An expectant waiting with hope, peace, joy, and love for the best that does come at Christmas. It is not just one day of merriment but a whole season of grace. So, whilst I may have lost my earlier Christmas spirit, I think I’ve discovered some Christmas meaning. That’s a good feeling.

Marc Romano

Christmas for me means the celebration of family and the gift of giving. Having four young children makes Christmas a special occasion. The joy that fills the air, the excitement and suspense in the preceding weeks, of not only receiving gifts, but the love that goes with giving. A deliberate intent in my family goes to putting in the effort of thought and time to find the perfect gift that means something special to the person that receives the gift. To acknowledge that they are important in our lives. As a family we celebrate our love for each other.

Most importantly, Christmas is a time for us to understand the lessons from Jesus and reflect on them. During the lead-up to Christmas I think it’s even more important to live compassion and forgiveness and to have a vision of doing everything with a positive mindset and from a place of love. This means, that on Christmas morning the birth of Christ symbolises not only new beginnings, but family unity. Each year as a family, we remember those less fortunate than ourselves and my four children each shop for a present to donate to St Vincent de Paul. Our family celebration of Christmas is a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by Jesus. Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit.

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