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Christmas through the ages

  • 19 December 2018


Selected poems



The true meaning

That famous Jewish boy arrived in autumn 4BC

most experts say, not Winter Solstice of year one.

No matter. Solstice celebrations soon embraced

not just our dying Sun's rebirth each year

and bull-killer Mithras' sacred day but also the nativity

of God on earth — as well as Saturnalia, time of joy

for Roman slaves and servants. Back then

that was most of us, definitely

me and mine. A good day to feast.


The myths we take for granted once sprang forth

miraculous, bizarre. Our mild North Pole Santa

started his career a wild-eyed saint

who resurrected murdered boys

and saved drowned sailors.


Yule logs once burned pure Nordic pagan

though our much-bedizened Christmas trees

are modern German things, beloved of Victoria

and her Saxe-Coburg Bert. Still, green boughs

and golden wreaths have wrought their sacred magic

indoors and out from time immemorial.


No need to argue! Celebrate the rebirth of the Sun,

the birth of God the Son, or simply

sunny days with loved ones.


Simply love.



Christmas through the ages

At twelve, halfway through too many stifling hours

crammed in the Holden station wagon, three girls

munch Mum's ham sandwiches

in a Rotary park (sun-yellowed grass, bright

blowsy roses near the road), then on

to the full catastrophe — grandparents, aunts,

uncles, myriad cousins, grey lamb with

Nana's watery mint sauce, grey-green veggies,

soggy pumpkin, Mum's great fruitcake. Presents.


At twenty-five, the man and I trek two days

up the Hume to now-distant parents' homes

for family celebrations, working hard

not to resent the strain. Hard work.


At thirty, waifs-and-strays Christmases

with friends in our adopted southern city.

Mango, nougat, croquembouche. Easy smiles.


By forty, we've declared ourselves a family

in our own right. Coffee with liqueur

for present-opening,

duck or chook roasted in the barbie

(heatwave or heater weather, or both

in the same day) served with sparkling wine.

Naps afterwards. Easy and calm.


Fifties, back north to help exhausted sisters day by day

with diminished parents. Christmas

breakfast lunch drinks dinner salmon salad

strawberries pavlova (never fruitcake)

coddling the blind, the lame, the thoroughly confused.


Each time, hoping it's not the last.



Jenny Blackford's poems have appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Going Down Swinging and Westerly, as well as The School Magazine and various anthologies. Pitt Street Poetry launched her first full-length poetry collection, The Loyalty of Chickens, in April 2017.