12 Days of Christmas – Tania McCartney

Welcome to 2014 and the 7th entry into this edition of the 12 Days of Christmas.  And to start the new year it is a huge welcome to Tania McCartney. I last caught up with Tania (and for too short a time too) when I was fulfilling ambassadorial duties for National Year of Reading in Canberra in 2012 but we have swapped a few emails since then of course.

Here she tells us of her wonderful Christmas memory and of today – with a photo of her first Christmas too. Just lovely!

Tania head shot

Christmas, for me, is a two-fold thing. Tradition and magic. Tradition can be any way you like it—religious, spiritual, familial, practical, commemorative, sentimental.

But magic—well, magic is intangible. It just is. I suppose it’s a delicate concoction of love, togetherness and a hint of shimmer, but it absolutely pervades Christmas for me. The spangle of tinsel, the rustle of paper, the whiff of cinnamon and fresh rockmelon and cherries, the clink of the good china. The low warble of Bing, the tang of my mum’s prawn cocktail piled into coloured glasses and the glowing nose of Rudolph as he stop-motioned his way across the screen of our great, hulking, remoteless television.

I didn’t have an idyllic, stable, love-cloistered childhood yet Christmas was a time when turbulence would subside and make way for magic. I can remember this magical transformation, even from my earliest years. Spirits would be high, there would be smiles and whistling. There would be generosity and kindness and dried fruit and spice baked into everything. But what I loved most was the shimmer. I can actually smell that shimmer. The heart-stopping sight of our gold tinsel tree, choked with swathes of skinny tinsel strands and homemade cellophane ornaments, and rimmed with an arsenal of gifts in crinking paper, begging tiny fingers to poke holes and peek. It was a true sight to behold.

And the stockings—oh, the stockings. We had white pillowcases with Father Christmas on the front, one foot inside a chimney, and the miracle of seeing that pillowcase transformed from sad and flat to abundant and fat was just heavenly. It didn’t even matter what we found inside—it was the pure anticipation of scrambling from our beds, far too early on a balmy Christmas morning, diving head first into that stocking and peeping with glee. Happiness.

Now, as a parent of two kids who are fortunate to have an idyllic, stable, love-cloistered childhood, I’m careful to pluck festive treasures from my own past and balance them with new traditions. We are a family who loves travel and over the years, our Christmas celebrations have invariably included mandarin trees and noodles from our time in China, German Christmas pyramids and stollen on Christmas eve, paper ornaments from Japan’s Tanabata festival, Nordic reindeer and straw ornaments, and most recently, Dutch speculaas cookies.

So, Christmas is a cultural, historical and familial blending of what was and what will be. It’s old and it’s new. We always bake my mother’s Christmas cake, but I also make gingerbread men. We always play Bing, but then we crank up Cold Play. We watch Frosty the Snowman (1969) but also Elf (2003). We open presents under the tree but with big mugs of coffee and cocoa, even if it’s 30 degrees outside. We look to the past but hold it dear in the present. Oh, and whatever we do and wherever we are, we make sure it’s swathed in tinsel.

Tania's First Christmas

Tania’s First Christmas


Tania McCartney writes books for both children and adults. An experienced magazine writer and editor, she has been writing professionally (print and online) for over 25 years, and in 2009, founded Kids’ Book Review, a highly respected children’s literature site. Tania has many years’ experience in book design and publishing, and has quite the picture book obsession. An Ambassador for the National Year of Reading (2012) and a Friend of The Reading Hour, she is passionate about literacy, and can occasionally be seen pushing books onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Or travelling. Or drinking coffee. With a book.

Tania latest books

Tania’s latest books include

  • An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids,
  • Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend,
  • Eco Warriors to the Rescue! and
  • Riley and the Jumpy Kangaroo: A journey around Canberra.

She lives in Canberra and can be found at her website – www.taniamccartney.com or on her review site www.kids-bookreview.com

Leave a comment