The tradition of Christmas …


Christmas will be different in my home this year.  My son and his wife, the newlyweds from earlier this year, are hosting the family Christmas meal.  It is strangely quiet in my home.  Usually I’m in the throes of a three day cooking fest but not this year.  We will have a family meal at my place in the first week of 2020 when my daughter’s partner is home from his FIFO (fly in fly out) offshore work.

Christmas in my home is all about family, about laughter, food and being together.  I usually give one of the young adults a joke or riddle book or a board game and against the background of loud laughter, I put the finishing touches to the meal.  This year I’m relaxing and will be relaxing at the couple’s home tomorrow.  I’m slowly giving up the reins for the young adults to carry on tradition.  There is a special joy in this transition as they emerge and become who they are meant to be.

After all the decades of living in a country where Christmas is celebrated in summer, I still yearn for a cold Christmas.  It is a fond memory from childhood in India.  We would each hold a candle skirted in cardboard paper, while attending Midnight Mass outdoors under freezing clear night skies.  The emphasis on gifts was minimal.  But, there was a huge focus on visiting family and friends between Christmas Eve and the Feast of Epiphany in January and that tradition continues to date in my life here in Australia.

This year the gift giving in my home is remarkable for reasons I’ll share with you.  I  hate shopping centres.  The crowds, the parking woes, the queues.  The trolleys filled with useless gifts generates a sense of despair in me.  I hate it all.  So from a very young age I would encourage my children to give me a list of what they wanted and I would choose something from it.  I would avoid browsing and I liked that.  As they grew older, their taste in gifts changed as one would expect and I had to accommodate their preferences.

My beautiful daughter, who embraces life with unfettered enthusiasm, has always asked for two tickets to the music festival which takes place in January.  This has been the only gift she has requested for about ten years now.  As much as I disliked her attending the festival where recreational drugs are rife, she would assure me she would be there for the music alone.  (Yes, I know!) I would give in, stay awake until she would text me she was home again.  Sigh!  This year she requested pots and pans.  Pots and pans! She and her partner moved into their own home earlier this year and nesting, it would seem.  He would love a voucher for the local hardware shop so he can get on to landscaping the backyard, she tells me.  I’m still reeling from the shock!

My son on the other hand loves video games and I dislike buying those too.  There’s so much more to do in life than a controller in hand, I say to him.  But it is part of their social life where a game night means visiting each other, ordering food in and playing games.  This year he and his wife wanted a dinner set.  He told me they have an assortment of plates and cups. “We would love a dinner set where everything matches, mum!”  This heartfelt request from a gamer!

So I’ve returned from a day’s shopping with pots and pans and a dinner set and a voucher for Bunnings.  It would seem that the young adults have become adults while I was sleeping.

This year has been different on many levels.  I can feel my world changing.  At times listing, at times balanced, at times blurry, but there’s an air of celebration in my world.  An undeniable feeling of anticipation and hope that the birth of the Christ Child symbolizes.

Whatever your belief or faith, may you experience celebration in your world, too.  May your heart and home be filled with the love and laughter of family and friends.  This is my wish for you.

Merry Christmas and peace!

As always

a dawn bird

In response to RDP – Tuesday – Candle





A child is born …


It seems fitting at this time of year to talk about childbirth, so I’ll go there!

There are traditions around childbirth in various cultures.  I’ve been exposed to two.  Both very different.

As a child in India i was always surrounded by infants or pregnant women.  Yet, the first time I carried an infant in my arms was when my daughter was placed in mine after birth.  I can still remember the overwhelming sense of wonder and love but was brought back to reality real fast.

I had my baby in a Western country where traditions are different.  One is sent home, sometimes on the same day after giving birth.  And, if working, one gets a few months maternity leave.  If one is lucky maybe a year.  I returned to work nine months after my daughter was born, and five months after my son was born.  The fact I had no choice, that’s how life was, does not lessen my regret.  My disappointment should have plunged me into depression.  It didn’t.  Not sure why, but it didn’t.

When pregnant there were several other women in the office who were due around the same time as me.  And, yes, we blamed a chair in the tea room.  The talk around the table was usually post natal depression (PND).  It was almost a given that one would experience it.  I was perplexed.  I had not heard of PND before.  The women of my childhood were always surrounded by others who seemed to know what support the new mother needed.  DSC_0504Like the tree in a Japanese park, folks seemed to sense where the vulnerability was so support was given psychologically, and also in practical ways.

In India, (at least in the days of my childhood and it is possible this tradition no longer is practiced), soon after the mother gives birth, she is nurtured for 40 days.  She rests and every need is catered.  A special sweet, sort of a bliss ball, made from clarified butter, sugar, edible gum, dried fruits and nuts is made, stored, and eaten every day.  The high caloric food is thought to nourish a mother who breastfeeds.  I can remember aunts and my mother’s friends, lying back on a bed like Cleopatra, having massages with coconut oil rubbed into limbs and hair.  I wanted some of that!

Having experienced so different an experience in a Western culture, I decided to create my own tradition.  I wrote a letter to each of my children after they were born detailing the events surrounding their birth.  It became their favourite story at bedtime.  “Tell me what happened when I was born”, became a plea for some years.  If that didn’t promote good bonding, I’m not sure what else could have been better.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird









Pickled memories

In the last few years fermented food has been promoted as being good for the digestive system.  It came as a surprise.  Nothing novel here.  Why the focus now when numerous cultures have regarded pickled food, part of their every day diet.  Take pickled herrings in Scandinavian countries, pickled cucumbers (Poland), sauerkraut (Germany), pickled ginger (Japan), kimchi (Korea), to name a few.

People from India love their pickles!  Lime, brinjal (auberine/eggplant), mango, tomato, chillis, are the common home made pickles, found in a jar on any dinner table.  What is less known is pickled fish, usually mackerel, in a spiced brine.  Delicious!  West Coast fare.  Then there is Bombay Duck.  It’s not a duck, but a lizardfish, to be exact, the origins of the name you can find on the internet.  When eaten fresh it is usually coated in spiced breadcrumbs and then fried.  The result is delicious, crisp on the outside and gelatinous on the inside.  A curious thing is that it does not taste fishy at all, except when dried in the sun on the beach for consumption later.  The smell, then, is overpowering but worth the prize.  Pickled in Goa Vinegar and spices, the very thought makes me salivate.

If fermented food is good for digestion, can memories be too?  Like pickles, in moderation, perhaps they are.  Some can last forever.  No use by date, or best before date.  They remain there suspended and contained.  Some ferment, the longer, the better (or not).  Best tasted, a little at a time.  One can have the same recipe, the taste is never identical.  We add spices, we embellish, we detract and edit.  (Some call this perception).  We hold them to light and check the sediment.  (Some call this insight).  We open the lid from time to time and sniff.  And when we scrape the bottom on the barrel, we sterilize the container and make a mental promise to make another batch again.  (Some call this resilience).

Memories are important, good or bad.  They shape our experience of the world.  Rather than minimize them for someone in distress, there is leverage in celebrating what once was, accepting the present for what it is and mourning what can never be.  These are the steady steps in any recovery that cannot be rushed.  Each individual takes the journey at their own pace.

After enjoying an evening with friends, I observed myself and others going back in time offering and exchanging with each other the gift of “remember when”. It made me realise. Friendship, like life, is fragile. We are privileged to enjoy its brevity or longevity. We can nurture it and be nurtured by it. We are warmed by the memory, or chilled to the bone by the loss. Despite one’s efforts, it can crumble without warning, leaving one standing in the debris with more questions than answers. Whatever the outcome, I do know for sure, if there is one shared moment in time that makes one smile because the friend and friendship was valued, then it was worth it.  Because, there will always be a joyous sentence that starts with “remember when …”.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird




Inherent in the concept of tradition is continuity.  Nothing remains old.  If we follow tradition, old becomes new again.  It is revival.

Around the world there are many traditions that are followed.  One of them I was familiar with from my childhood and surprised to experience it in Australia.  The Smoking Ceremony.

In Asian countries the use of smoke to ward of evil is commonly practiced.  I can recall aromatic spices being placed on smoking wood chips and waved around a newborn to ward off evil and keep the child safe.  Similarly smoke is used in weddings to bless a new beginning.

Smoke is an integral component of the ceremony at any Mass in a church and in Catholic homes.  A candle often burned in celebration or memory of a loved one, in a special corner of the home.  My mother had the Parish Priest visit the home once a year.  He’d walk around the home with a brass container with smoking incense that he swung gently before him and bless the home.  We’d follow him through the house, like sheep.  She would have a grand lunch for him after.  As he left, she would give him a wad of cash, placed discreetly in an envelope.  My father’s silent disapproving stare would be met with a fierce defensive whisper, “It’s once a year!”

As a child I was raised to seek the blessings of the elders in the family, even if we were going to school.  “Grandpa, bless me!” was a familiar goodbye.  He would place his wrinkled, soft hand on our head and say a short prayer of protection.  The wedding album was not complete if there were no photographs of the bride and groom being blessed by their individual parents and then by their new in-laws.

One of the things I look forward to when attending major conferences or events in government settings in Australia is the Welcome Ceremony.  An indigenous elder welcomes the attendees by acknowledging ancestors and asks for blessings.  A more recent addition is the acknowledgement of the elders, past and future.  I recall sitting next to an American man once who wiped away tears saying, he had never experienced this in any other country.  It moves me too.  Every time.  It makes me feel secure.  It is an anchoring moment.  The past, the present and the future.


The indigenous Smoking Ceremony is more interactive.  One walks past the smoke from various native plants.  Some fan the smoke towards them.  It is a cleansing and healing ceremony.

On this occasion I watched several hundred people walk through the smoke.  We were there because we wanted to make a difference in delivering health care.  Individually our desire was to contribute to a bigger and more inclusive ‘oneness’.

So can we.

Until next time

As always

a dawn bird