Our youngest child had been born in Papua New Guinea – ‘the land of the unexpected’. He along with his two older brothers enjoyed growing up in the tropics where the only clothes were shorts and t-shirts, no shoes, school in the mornings and daily afternoon swims in 32-degree ocean, or climbing coconut trees, or exploring jungle trails armed with a handmade slingshot, or snorkeling on untouched reefs and playing with friends from all parts of the world every day.
We celebrated quite a few tropical Christmases in PNG and we didn’t realise until we returned to Australia that we neglected to mention Santa to our youngest, who posed the question to me with much bemusement the first time he saw a Santa in a bustling Sydney shopping centre. ‘Who is that funny clown in the red suit mum?
The clown in the red suit had never turned up in PNG, too hot for a start, and Christmas, well, it was laid back, kept simple and usually involved lots of food of course and fun with the other families living on the base with us. We had some Christmases where, if not for the wonderful presents sent from family and friends back in OZ, our boys wouldn’t have received anything on the day. It was a special day for us, don’t get me wrong. But expensive presents, Santa, frantic last minute shopping hype and maxing out credit cards just didn’t happen. We didn’t live near any toy stores and postal charges were prohibitive.
As a family we focused on the birth of Jesus as recounted in the bible and well, Santa just never copped a mention. We have fond memories of our time together as a family in PNG. It has given us all a love for people from all nations, walks of life and different viewpoints. We are thankful for the experiences and while we may have missed out on fancy presents, long cues in shopping centres and funny clowns in red suits, we did enjoy celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
He is the reason for the season after all.