Updated: Dec 2, 2022
My Sydney brother keeps a humble cottage in the remote and lovely town of Beechworth. It's for lockdowns, for his chickens and ducks, and for the family to gather at Christmas. It was delicious and it was merry, and I was happy all over again about having a big family.
There were the usual Aussie Christmas things, like swimming in the river and front yard cricket.
My 80-year-old mum steps up to the wicket, and then...out! Brilliant catch by brother-in-law Jorge
The arrival of the Suttie family brought an extra dimension, as we seven Macaulay siblings met and got to know these 9 cute creative children. To be in the aura of this family, on this day, was the perfect Christmas present, it really was.
Resourceful Michael whipped out his family-sized hotplate and cooked a bathtub-full of pad thai noodles for dinner. As he tossed, he kept us happy with an endless stream of Dad jokes. That's the reason to become a dad 9 times, right? To have lots of kid fun. I braided the girl's hair and got to hear what they care about and hope for, and their appreciation for each other. As the night deepened, Manuela gathered her many many children to the lounge room for Christmas carols. Just the first verse of all the best ones. They sang so prettily. One of them a recited 'Mulga Bills Bicycle' in full oratorical splendor. Then before bed, this magical thing occurred: they recited prayers of the Catholic rosary, in perfect Latin. They sang ten hail Marys, in call-and-response, plus the other traditional prayers, without missing a beat.
I almost forget that I'm part of a culture, distinct and beautiful, endangered but not yet lost. Gatherings like this keep it alive, century after century.
The Hail Mary in Latin goes like this if you want to learn it:
Ave Maria, gratia plena Dominus tecum benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
I'm sure my ancestors up in heaven said 'Ah, lovely!' as these freely-given prayers wafted to the starry sky, reminding them of when they were young and hopeful and down here, making things happen in the world.
I love culture, and I love Christmas. I've spent too much of the past year being scared. Being alive is the thing, being able to do a whole universe of freely-chosen things in the world. So I will.