Growing up I always thought everyone spent Christmas the same way. This would consist of the entire family gathering at the designated house of the year, eating way too much food, handing out presents and singing Christmas carols while that one person who thinks they can play the guitar gives the strings a red-hot crack.
It’s only as I’ve “grown up” that I’ve realised this isn’t the fact, and that everyone has a completely different way of spending Christmas. We asked five Wild Women what Christmas means to them, what lessons they keep having to learn, and whether they’d skip Christmas if they had the opportunity. Enjoy!
What does a normal Christmas Day look like to you?
Lisa Sestito, Customer Service Coordinator: Depends if it’s our year ‘on’ or ‘off’ – blended family, you know. Either way, it starts with an ocean swim with girlfriends. Then it’s back home to either prep food for 30 people or relax and have coffee before going to a restaurant, friend’s place or a smaller gathering of sorts that I don’t organise. Sometimes we’ll pop into our respective ex-partners to share champers and see the kids, that’s really nice. Oh and pressies, loads of wrapping paper littering the floor and having to check all paper for gift cards before chucking it into the recycling bin.
Kath Rothwell, Event Manager: Christmas usually consists of me waking up before the kids (they are teenagers now), as I am so excited to see their reactions to their gifts. Then we try and go slow and enjoy the morning at home, sharing gifts and casual breakfast. We are definitely a Christmas lunch vs dinner family, and the festivities with family and friends normally kick off around 12pm. Usually, it’s an early night after all of the excitement of the day.
Di Westaway OAM, CEO and Founder: No such thing as normal for my Christmas Day. My wish is always to have all my kids, their partners, my partner and my mum around for some fun, games, a swim, a few laughs, some yummy food and a fight over the dishes. So far, it’s never happened.
Donna Freak, Marketing Specialist: Joining together with my immediate family; parents and two brothers, my fiancé and my baby. Surf in the morning followed by a long lunch of prawns, turkey and all the trimmings, lovely wine and pudding. My fiancé is Jewish so we call this period ‘Hanukkah’.
Sasha Reid, Marketing Director: Early start! Kicking off with not-so-stealthy stage whispers and rustling around before dawn courtesy of my children. On any other day, I’d think we had wildlife in the house but on Christmas Day this excitement sets the tone for the day. I then get coffee sorted just like any other day, along with food prep, firing up a festive music playlist and getting out all the “good plates” to set our table outside. Since we’re in Sydney, Australia, Christmas is all about outdoor summer fun rather than cosy snowy scenes. We mix up hosting family at our place or going to parents – or occasionally travelling and taking our Christmas show on the road. We do presents under the tree a little later in the morning and our afternoons could be anything from a food coma, watching a movie, walking around the neighborhood, diving in a pool or hitting the beach. We will eat leftovers forever… or at least until mid-Jan.
When we say the word Christmas, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Lisa: Having all our kids and their partners (for a part day) and any available extended family, orphans, pets etc in one place. Laughing, playing crazy games, drinking too much, eating too much and swimming! Four adult children now and one nearly adult so it’s a heap of crazy fun when they’re all together. My partner and I love absolutely nothing more than having everyone together.
Donna: Parties, food and fun with friends and family.
Sasha: Magic! Family! Food! Stress! Lights!
What’s a lesson you have to keep learning every Christmas?
Lisa: Not to prepare toooo much food… not sure I’ll ever learn, I come from an Italian family.
Kath: Not to spend too much on gifts… always an oops moment. I just love giving.
Di: That everybody’s busy and its best to gradually collect gifts for loved ones when you think of them throughout the year rather than leaving Christmas shopping for Christmas Eve.
Donna: You don’t always need to go for 3rd serving of food, there will be leftovers tomorrow. Might be because I have two older brothers that hogged all the food!
Sasha: To not take on too much.
If you could press a big red button and skip the holiday, would you? Why/why not?
Lisa: Yes and no. It’s exhausting and sometimes stressful getting everything ready, but I wouldn’t have it any other way so the show goes on!
Kath: No way. I think by the end of the year we all need a little downtime.
Di: Nah… I love the holiday season. It’s a great excuse to get into nature and go wild on my mountain bike or climb mountains and plunge into waterfalls. My only wish is that my kids want to join me more often.
Donna: No, I enjoy the fact everyone is on holiday at the same time, so we can hang out together and enjoy the summer. On the flip side, the beach and the surf are super busy during this time!
Sasha: There’s no doubt Christmas/NY can be a tricky and fraught time of year. We’re exhausted, emotions run high, alcohol and junk foods are typically plentiful, we’re bombarded with OTT marketing messages and many of us will feel obliged to spend time with people we actually don’t care for that much! For others, it might be a time of grief, loss and loneliness rather than celebration, heightened by constant exhortations to “be joyful!”. For me, however, at this stage of my life, I wouldn’t skip it for all the world. I’ve learned, especially over the past few pandemic years, that it’s okay to ignore the trappings that don’t matter to me or my family and that we can just do our thing. Also, that magic and wonder and awe isn’t just for kids – or shouldn’t be anyway! Maybe it’s sentimental and naïve but I see magic in connection and friendship, in believing in something bigger than yourself, and in the capacity of people to be big-hearted. There’s also something to be said about the magic of a super-cheesy Christmas movie – especially if there’s singing and dancing involved.
If you had one Christmas wish what would you ask for?
Lisa: For my mum to be back on earth to enjoy the day with us, she loved Christmas so much and we all miss her terribly.
Kath: Everyone to live in harmony. Harmony with each other, sharing and caring, looking after our environment.
Di: That I could get my whole family, including my sister and her family, for a happy fun-filled day where everybody is super excited to be there and have a laugh.
Donna: More holidays and vacations, with money of course!
Sasha: That everyone does Coastrek next year, haha! I mean, probably better to go for world peace and a healthy planet though.