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Australia's Christmas cognitive dissonance

  • 13 December 2018


As the weather warms and the days grow longer, the many signs of summer and the Christmas season become unmissable. Magpie swooping season has finished, with the baby maggies leaving their nests to hop around and attempt to warble. Mosquitos and the scent of citronella fill the evening air, and every grocery store has an abundance of cheap plastic toys, gift box chocolates, and pavlova bases.

In the large shopping centres Santa has arrived, along with nativity displays, faux pine trees, depictions of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the sound of Christmas songs over the audio system. Public spaces become louder, in every sense of the word, with parks and playgrounds alive with parties, and colourful lights twinkling down many street fronts.

Among the busying schedules and increasing heat, also come the church signs and preachers calling on everyone to 'remember the reason for the season'. As I fill my children's shoes with lollies, and set myself an alarm so I remember to move our Elf on the Shelf, I cannot help but think about the level of cognitive dissonance required to believe you hold not only the rights to an entire holiday, but also the moral high ground, all while occupying buildings constructed on stolen lands.

While many people undoubtedly do consider Christ as their reason for engaging with and celebrating this holiday, Christmas and its many traditions have pre-Christian origins. Despite now having 'Christ' within its name, this holiday has in fact evolved from various peoples, faiths, cultures, and lands. In this way Christmas as a holiday is reflective of the society in which we live, and rather fitting for this land now known as Australia.

The beauty of holidays, celebrations, and traditions is that we are free to adapt them for our own families and homes, and this has occurred over many centuries with the holiday we now know as Christmas.

However, the migration of this celebration to this continent did not happen in isolation from the violence of invasion and colonisation. This land was not settled peacefully, nor does the legacy of the missionaries and invaders reflect the message or actions of the Christ depicted within the Bible.

If you want people to 'remember the reason for the season', then this should involve reflecting on pagan festivals such as the winter solstice (not overly relevant here in the Southern Hemisphere). But if what you actually mean is you are choosing to