Culture

Meet Three Australians Who Will Spend This Christmas Away From Family

Not everyone's around family and friends this year.

This year, I’ll be spending Christmas alone. Yes, I know I’ll never truly be alone (I have Tumblr, afterall) but come Christmas night, after an obligatory viewing of Love Actually, I will drag myself to bed, lonely, drunk and misty-eyed because Professor Snape gave Emma Thompson a Joni Mitchell CD.

Most people agree that Christmas is a time best spent with loved ones – if only to have a drinking partner. But I won’t be the only person spending Christmas without this kind of company.

Consider the people who work on Christmas Day: on they slave, providing us with beverages and public transport, hoping to partake in and profit from the cheer of Christmas orphans. Then there are the folk who, without the kindness of strangers, would spend Christmas Day without family, food or shelter. And finally, there are those who party on with their sunburnt soul sisters and brothers, whom they’ve known for five minutes but are eternally bound thanks to $3 vodkas at Star Bar in Sydney.

I spoke to three of them, to find out what they will be doing tomorrow.

Tom — The Busker

Tom in Pitt Street

Tom in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney | Photo by @cjharvey2

Tom will be spending Christmas 2014 in anticipation of the biggest event of his year: the Boxing Day sales.

As a street musician, Tom relies on the generosity of the classical-music loving mall-goers to make his living. This means he’s often away from his family on Christmas Day, which sometimes he chooses to spend in Circular Quay, playing to a handful of tourists and bored locals.

“The fares to visit my family in Tasmania are too expensive, so I decided to play music in Circular Quay for all the people who don’t celebrate Christmas,” Tom explains. Tom and his family practice Buddhism, so they don’t really recognise the Christian meaning of the holiday – but growing up, he recalls the traditions he misses.

“My mum is from England so she likes to make a pudding, which she pours brandy over and sets on fire,” Tom explains. While he says they’re sad he can’t be around, his parents understand that it’s hard to get together when you live in two different cities.

Plus, he says, it’s a good day to work: “Sure, it’s not particularly busy. But the people are more generous.”

Lani — The Runaway

Lani_Wayside

Photo © Rebecca Mitchell, 2014

This Christmas, Lani will be one member of the Wayside Chapel Choir, joining the organisation’s Hughes Street Christmas laneway party.

After running away from home at the age of 14, Lani has spent most of her life on and off the streets of Kings Cross, Sydney. She tells me she’s seen a few things – “got up to no good” – and after an unsuccessful stint in rehab, she finally found assistance at the Wayside Chapel.

(When I tell her I’m writing this article for a website called Junkee, she looks at me like I’ve betrayed her: “Why would they want to call themselves that? Around here, that’s what you call the people who are no good, like ‘go away ya junkie!’ So I don’t know why they’d want to call themselves that.”)

Despite having five children and three grandchildren, she still spends her Christmases at Wayside. “They are my family. Without them, I’d be spending Christmas alone with my dog.”

Each year Wayside puts on a street party, providing festive fun and food for the community. Lani sings in the choir and has recently joined the Kings Cross Bikers Social and Welfare Club – a community group who offer assistance to the homeless, and drug-affected locals.

While she says it’s always a shock to see how many people turn up to support Wayside on Christmas – “People really do come!” – like most people, Lani’s favourite part of the Christmas event is seeing the happy kids. “You see their eyes light up! There’s just so much joy and it makes you speechless. It’s priceless.”

Dominic — The Backpacker

Photo courtesy of Dominic.

Photo courtesy of Dominic.

This is Dominic’s first Christmas away from the family. He came to Sydney from Watford, England to have a true blue Chrissy – an experience somewhat different to his traditional upbringing.

“My father is Catholic so every year we go to midnight mass,” Dominic says. “He is also Dutch so we have this crazy tradition where, after church at three in the morning we would come home and have a family breakfast.”

There won’t be any Edam or Dutch Stollen this year; he’ll be swapping his snowflake sweaters for a Hawaiian shirt, and BBQ in the Blue Parrot hostel in Kings Cross.

“We’re having a family BBQ at Blue Parrot, and we’re trying to make it very Aussie, so we’ll be having crazy stuff like kangaroo burgers and shrimp or something.” After they feast and drink ‘til their bellies are full, Dominic and his fellow backpackers will head to Bondi to party with every other backpacker in Sydney.

While he admits he won’t miss listening to the Queen’s annual Christmas address, Dominic is planning to pause the party to attend his family’s post-midnight feast via Facetime.

Rebecca Mitchell is a Sydney-based freelance journalist and musical-lover. She tweets from @beckatemitch