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Australians love affair with Christmas

By Warwick Marsh - posted Friday, 23 December 2011


Australians have a love affair with Christmas. An extensive six-nation study by top research firm, CoreData, has found overall spending during the festive season by Australians will dwarf that of the US, UK, France and China.

Average households here will spend $1,055 each this Christmas, based on all expenses including gifts, food and decorations. This is two-thirds more than Americans ($644) and New Zealanders ($631), 60 per cent more than the French, 30 per cent more than the UK ($815), and well over double the Chinese ($400). Read more.

What about the fact that 'Carols by Candlelight' celebrations are held all throughout December and attended by several million Australians. Many of these people would never go to a church at all throughout the year, but are happy to pack the esky with some 'tinnies', take the wife and kids, set up camping chairs and enjoy the annual Christmas praise and worship sing-along.

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The explosion of Christmas lights across the suburbs is also another sign that Christmas is getting more popular, not less so. As Wikipedia says:

In Australia and New Zealand, chains of Christmas lights were quickly adopted as an effective way to provide ambient lighting to verandas, where cold beer is often served in the long hot summer evenings. For many years the use of Christmas lights on Australian homes was mainly limited to this simple form. From about 1990 increasingly elaborate Christmas lights have been displayed and driving around between 8 and 10 p.m. to look at the lights has become a popular family entertainment. While in some areas there is fierce competition, with town councils offering awards for the best decorated house, in other areas it is seen as a co-operative effort, with residents priding themselves on their street or their neighbourhood.

So what is driving this increasing interest in Christmas, here is Australia?

Well I believe it is a number of factors. We know the retailers are pushing Christmas pretty hard, but even that does not explain its peculiar popularity. Australians are not a particularly religious lot and yet we do have a longing for transcendence. When Paul Hogan said in Crocodile Dundee, "I read the bible once. You know God and Jesus and all the apostles? They were all fishermen, just like me. Yeah, straight to heaven for Mick Dundee. Yep, me and God, we'd be mates."

He was not just speaking for himself but for many Australians. Henry Lawson, one of Australia's greatest poets said it well in 'The Christ of the 'Never', a poem about a much loved bush preacher.

. . . . With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
To the awful horizons of land...
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
The Christ of the Outer Outback...

He works where the hearts of all nations
Are withered in flame from the sky...
He's the doctor – the mate of the dying
Through the smothering heat of the night.

By his worth in the light that shall search men
And prove – ay! and justify each –
I place him in front of all churchmen
Who feel not, who know not – but preach.
. . . .

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However it's not just the longing for transcendence, but a longing for stronger family relationships that is making Christmas so popular in Australia. Don't listen to our modern media and our leading politicians in their hell-bent destruction of marriage and family.

The media elite and political ruling class are not expressing the desire of the average Australian in their continued trashing of the Judeo-Christian ethic. As Miranda Devine pointed out in her article "What Australians really want":

What is the great Australian dream? What do Australians want most out of life?

You might think the answer would be something economic.

But the truth is rather more prosaic and quite wonderful.

More than anything they say they want a good marriage.

That would be their greatest accomplishment, 83 per cent of Australians said in the latest AustraliaSCAN survey.

But the biggest divide between the insiders and the outsiders or between the so-called elites and middle Australia - is on what used to be called family values.

Whereas 75 per cent of Middle Australia believes in the proposition: "It's time this country got back to basic moral values like honesty, hard work and putting families first", the same was true for fewer than half of the elites.

Australians want to celebrate "ordinary decency and morality", says Chalke. Which is why pleasant reality shows celebrating the achievements of ordinary people, such as Masterchef, rate their socks off.

Despite the fact we sometimes fall short of our own expectations, we value our families - whatever shape or size they are.

Yet how rarely are happy marriages and well-adjusted children spoken about or celebrated. Instead, a Martian arriving in Australia could be forgiven for thinking all we have are dysfunctional unions, cheating spouses, and "Polly has two mummies" controversies.

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About the Author

Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and two grandchildren and have been married for 34 years.

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