Back in the old days!

By Christine Haines

“Back in the old days” I’d say, and my girls would groan, knowing they were about to hear how things were better then. But they haven’t experienced what I did, so how would they know?

In my early teens, some fifty years ago, Christmas Eve and Day were focused on baby Jesus, sharing yummy food, being with family and excited to be with our cousins. There was the magic of Midnight Mass (no Vigils back then), admiration of Nativity scenes in the Church and the town’s Cave Gardens and once-a-year late night shopping, where the street was closed off. My mum used to spend weeks baking in the lead-up to Christmas. When my girls were little, I would make new dresses for them to wear to Christmas Mass. After all, it was a special time!

For all the years I can remember, we received one wrapped present. Most times it was something we needed: a brush, comb and mirror set, a handbag when fifteen. I’ve been with my grandchildren when I swear they’ve opened twenty presents and I wonder how they would react if there was only one parcel beneath the tree with their name on it. Can you imagine their disbelief and disappointment? But I don’t think it would be as great as the sadness I feel, knowing that my grandchildren no longer attend Christmas Mass to experience the joy of the miracle of Jesus’ birth.

Now that I’m older, I find my magical, special times of Christmas have been replaced with time alone in reflection with Jesus while on Retreat. The Archdiocesan Retreats at Galong are a blessing for my soul, spirit and body. I listen to inspirational speakers, write in my prayer journal, sit in the warm sun at Our Lady’s feet in the grotto, or wander in meditation down the long driveway. But best of all is the intimate, beautiful Mass held in the stunning Monastery Chapel where I thank God for the birth of Jesus who came to grace us with eternal love!