Opinion  |  

I’m dreaming of a 1980s Christmas

Bring back Young Talent Time cassettes, hot fibro houses and the meaningful car trip

Forget commercialism and e-cards with politically correct references to ‘holidays.’ The thing about Christmas that has really changed in the past 30-odd years is the car trip.

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My own kids – with their headphones and personal devices – have no idea that they are missing the true joy of Christmas. They’ll probably never know the satisfaction of making the whole family listen to your new Young Talent Time cassette. Or the heavenly contentment of driving past a closed McDonalds, safe in the knowledge of a Christmas lunch that was just an hour’s drive away.

I am utterly convinced that peace on earth is best achieved when all the cousins put on their new cozzies and run under the sprinkler.

My kids may never experience the kind of hospitality that is extended by a tribe of cousins who jump up and wave from a street corner where they sit in unsupervised glory, awaiting your arrival. And they’ll probably never sense the sweet, sweet relief of climbing out of the back of an old Toyota Corona sans air-con and shaking out the Christmas dress that becomes one in a holy union of dress, sweat and skin.

As an Aussie kid born in the 70s, I have known the wonder of being squashed into a tiny fibro house crammed with relatives on a 38-degree day to share a meal designed for the depths of a UK winter. I know personally the abundant love expressed in the gift of extra cold custard on hot Christmas pudding. And my heart is filled with thanksgiving for the nonviolent revolution that my Mum and her sisters waged, one salad, one fruit platter, at a time.

I’m also of the opinion that true community can be forged via a game of backyard cricket, and that this is especially if your Nan has a turn at batting (and running). And more than anything, I am utterly convinced that peace on earth is best achieved when all the cousins put on their new cozzies and run under the sprinkler.

Respondents revealed that childhood memories and/or a link to loved ones gave them a special attachment to a particular place.

Scientists at the University of Surrey apparently agree with me, having recently partnered with the UK National Trust to investigate the emotional impact of meaningful places.

They pioneered new brain-scanning techniques while showing 20 people pictures of landscapes, houses, other locations and personally meaningful objects.  The researchers found that an area of the brain associated with emotional responses, called the amygdala, was fired up when participants became more excited by looking at photographs of places than they did by looking at other photographs.

The study was then expanded in a survey that asked more than 2000 people about their connection to meaningful places. Respondents revealed that childhood memories and/or a link to loved ones gave them a special attachment to a particular place. Many participants in the Places That Make Us report described their feelings in response to these places. The top three responses were: ‘this place is part of me’ (86%); ‘I feel safe here’ (60%); and ‘I’m drawn here by a magnetic pull’ (79%).

The good news for my kids (and anyone else who is not trapped in the nostalgia of Christmas past) is that the survey also found that, for over 40 per cent of people surveyed, their “meaningful places” were only recently discovered to them. This means that there’s still plenty of opportunities to find the calm, joy, contentment, energy and a sense of belonging that survey participants reported feeling in connection to meaningful places, both at Christmas time and all the year round.

As for me, I’m reclaiming the car trip this Christmas and have grand plans to encourage headphones to be taken off and personal devices to be put away. I might even still my nostalgia-beating heart and let the kids pick the tunes.

Although, let’s be honest, everyone knows that Mariah Carey’s Christmas album is the greatest of all time, right?

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