12 Days of Christmas – Gabrielle Wang

For this, the fourth day of this edition of the 12 Days of Christmas, Melbourne’s Gabrielle Wang has penned a delightful memory  of the half Chinese, half Aussie Christmas feast, coins from the plum pudding and a musty old Santa. Just delightful.

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Gabrielle Wang

When I was a child we would leave empty pillowcases at the foot of our beds. They weren’t anything special, just ordinary white pillowslips taken that night from the linen cupboard stains and all. But come morning, well, what a transformation. These ordinary household items would be bulging with presents from Father Christmas.

My best presents over the years were:

  • A blue Malvern Star bicycle (propped up beside my bed)
  • Riding boots
  • Jodhpurs
  • Notepaper
  • Diary
  • Ice skates
  • China animals to add to my collection.

Each year after school broke up, Mum would take us to a city department store to sit on Father Christmas’ knee and have our photos taken. Those Santas always smelt a bit musty. Then we would go to view the Myer’s Christmas window in Bourke Street. And what a treat that was. What is so heart-warming is that Myers has upheld this tradition over the years and captivated millions of children. 2013 was their fifty-eighth year! Sometimes on that same day, Mum would stop for afternoon tea at Georges on Collins Street. This was where ladies spoke in quiet tones and took small bites from their cucumber sandwiches to the tinkling of silver cutlery.

My grandfather had a large house and it was there, with all the aunts, uncles and cousins that we celebrated Christmas day. The star on the Christmas tree brushed the tall ceiling of his lounge room and the house was filled with the cool scent of pine. Presents would be piled around the tree, which could not be opened until after lunch. We ate duck and chicken, salad and roast vegetables – half Chinese, half Aussie fare. But the most memorable food for me on Christmas day was plum pudding. The currency in those days was pounds, shillings and pence and the tradition was to cook threepences and sixpences inside the pudding for the children to find.

I remember how quiet we were, our eyes wide as the steaming pudding was cut open. Then a silvery half moon would appear peeping out from the dark dessert. Was it a sixpence or a threepence? In those days a sixpence was worth about $1.60 and I would come home with a pocketful of silver coins to spend on lollies at the milkbar.

And what then followed Christmas day? The long, lazy days of the summer holidays.

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Gabrielle Wang in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and is a children’s author and illustrator born in Melbourne of Chinese heritage. Her maternal great grandfather came to Australia during the Victorian Gold Rush in 1853. Her father came from Shanghai. Gabrielle’s stories are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of magic. Here latest book is The Wishbird with ‘Meet Pearlie’, the first of four novels in the Our Australian Girl series to be released at the end of January 2014.

You can find Gabrielle at her website — www.gabriellewang.com.au.

The Wishbird cover copy pearlie 1 hi res

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