Several years ago, Australia spent more on Christmas per capita than any other nation. The Americans are beating us this year, but we are still right up there.
The average household in Australia will spend $969 each this Christmas, based on all expenses including gifts, food and decorations. That is a grand total of 18.8 billion dollars.
And what about the fact that ‘Carols by Candlelight’ celebrations are held all throughout December and attended by several million Australians?
Many of these people would never go to a church at all throughout the year but are happy to pack the esky with some ‘tinnies’, take the wife and kids, set up camping chairs and enjoy the annual Christmas praise and worship sing-along.
The explosion of Christmas lights across the suburbs is also another sign that Christmas is getting more popular, not less so. As Wikipedia says:
In Australia and New Zealand, chains of Christmas lights were quickly adopted as an effective way to provide ambient lighting to verandas, where cold beer is often served in the hot summer evenings. Since the late 20th century, increasingly elaborate Christmas lights have been displayed, and driving around between 8 and 10 p.m. to view the lights has become a popular form of family entertainment. In some areas Christmas lighting becomes a fierce competition, with town councils offering awards for the best decorated house, in other areas it is seen as a co-operative effort, with residents priding themselves on their street or their neighbourhood. The town of Lobethal, South Australia, in the Adelaide Hills, is famed for its Christmas lighting displays.
So what is driving this increasing interest in Christmas, here in Australia?
Well, I believe it is a number of factors. We know the retailers are pushing Christmas pretty hard, but even that does not explain its peculiar popularity. Australians are not a particularly religious lot, yet we do have a longing for transcendence.
When Paul Hogan said in Crocodile Dundee, “I read the bible once. You know God and Jesus and all the apostles? They were all fishermen, just like me. Yeah, straight to heaven for Mick Dundee. Yep, me and God, we’d be mates.” He was not just speaking for himself.
…With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
To the awful horizons of land…
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
The Christ of the Outer Outback…
He works where the hearts of all nations
Are withered in flame from the sky…
He’s the doctor – the mate of the dying
Through the smothering heat of the night.
By his worth in the light that shall search men
And prove – ay! and justify each –
I place him in front of all churchmen
Who feel not, who know not – but preach…
However, it’s not just the longing for transcendence, but a longing for stronger family relationships that is making Christmas so popular in Australia. Don’t listen to our modern media and our leading politicians in their derogation of the importance of family.
The media elite and political ruling class are not expressing the desire of the average Australian in their continued trashing of Christian ethics and family values.
In the annual Mission Australia Youth Survey Family Relationships ranked right up there with friendships outside the family for young people aged between 15 – 19 both sitting around 94% in varying degrees of importance with family relationships wining the “extremely Important” race overall.
Australians love outsiders and outcasts. That’s one of the many reasons they love the Christmas story. You see Joseph and Mary were rank outsiders. Mary was having a baby ‘out of wedlock’. The angel story was always going to be hard to explain to the relatives.
By Jewish law, Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, should have divorced her on the spot, but an angel spoke to him and he had the courage to defend her despite the condemnation from his own family.
Imagine walking for 110 kilometres with your wife who is 9 months pregnant to visit your relatives who really don’t want to be seen with you because of the scandal of the pending illegitimate birth.
Joseph was a man of courage and compassion, who acted according to his convictions. Yes, he was laughed at and Mary was too, but the ostracised outsiders became the ultimate heroes. This was even truer for Mary’s boy child, Jesus.
Hated and rejected by the media elite and political ruling class of his day, they nailed him to a cross, but they couldn’t keep a good man down.
Aussies love stories like this. That is just one of the many reasons why Christmas is so popular in this country. The story of Mary and Joseph is a story of true love, the importance of family and the rank outsider coming good. This story resonates profoundly in the Aussie psyche.
Australia began as a convict nation, who now for the greater part, would join with Mick Dundee to say, “me and God are mates”.
Australians love those who are outsiders and outcasts. People who help others and get the job done without fuss or fanfare, ‘the mate of the dying’ as Henry Lawson said in his poem, ‘Christ of the Never’.
The Christmas story of the ultimate outsider born in a manger and then saving the world resonates deeply with the Australian spirit.
What If God was One of Us was a number one hit in Australia in the mid-nineties but its end of year rating in our country was higher than the rest of the world. Christmas is the story of God becoming one of us.
That’s one of the many reasons why Australians have a love affair with Christmas.