The most meaningful gifts to give and appreciate this Christmas
Bendigo music teacher, Kim Burns, says: “Don’t get engrossed in the idea of getting lots and lots of presents because it’s not what it’s all about.” (Dave Hunt: AAP)
It has been forecast that Australians will spend over $50 billion in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. With that in mind a diverse group of central Victorians have shared their ideas for more meaningful gifts to give this Christmas.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) and Roy Morgan Research have predicted Australians will spend over $51.4 billion in the six weeks leading up to Christmas Day, a figure 2.9 per cent higher than last year.
Executive director of ARA Russell Zimmerman said over $20 billion will be spent on food followed by household goods and clothing.
Christmas is about family time
Music teacher Kim Burns encourages her students to prioritise family time over consumerism at Christmas. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
Kim Burns comes from a long line of music teachers and was inspired by her son’s struggle with learning to become a specialist music teacher after working as a nurse for 20 years.
She now teaches music at the Bendigo Special Development School and works with many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds whose parents struggle to afford Christmas gifts.
“The students get used to not expecting too much for Christmas,” Ms Burns said.
She created educational parodies for the school’s end-of-year production by rewriting traditional Christmas songs that inspired her students to question consumerism at Christmas.
“I’m trying to teach the kids that Christmas is about time, spending time with your family, quality time with your family,” Ms Burns said.
“Don’t get engrossed in the idea of getting lots and lots of presents because it’s not what it’s all about.
“A lot of my students have come to me and said to me, ‘Kim, you know Christmas isn’t about presents’.”
Giving time to the community
Peg Higginbottom from the Country Women’s Associations says Christmas can be a difficult time for some. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
The Country Women’s Association (CWA) has been in Ms Higginbottom’s blood since her great-grandmother started a chapter 1936.
After being approached by a group of young women keen to become involved in the CWA Ms Higginbottom, from Barfold in central Victoria, started up the Kyneton Twilighters branch.
“They’re a really fantastic dynamic group of women,” Ms Higginbottom said.
“They don’t want to sit around having a bit of a gossip — they actually want to get in there and do things and make a difference.”
Fundraising for the community is a large part of the work, from buying carpet for the local play group and supporting the local womens football team to raising funds for drought relief and cooking.
At Christmas time, apart from getting involved in the 200-person Kyneton community lunch event and distributing food, Ms Higginbottom makes a Christmas cake for each of her families.
“My mother used to do the same thing for me … Christmas is a very difficult time too and if you think about a gift being appropriate to that person, and what do you think they need most,” Ms Higginbottom said.
“Giving to your community is a great thing.”
The gift of rain
Farmer Cam Parker wishes for favourable weather and downtime with his family this festive season. (Supplied: Amanda Parker)
Boort farmer Cam Parker was not born into farming but after a short stint hay cutting he gave up life in the suburbs as a supermarket manager for the land.
“I was hooked after that. I could see further than aisle 17,” he said.
Mr Parker farms land in Boort in the south-eastern Mallee, runs a hay contracting business with his wife Amanda and works as a spray manager for a large farming business in the area.
While farming can be challenging with changeable weather conditions, he is drawn to watching the changing lifecycles and improving management techniques.
Most of his crops were harvested prior to recent rains, meaning he now has more time to spend with family and friends.
With his Christmas wish of downtime granted there is also the inevitable prayer to the weather gods.
“Farmers always ask for timely rain and good prices … that’s exactly what we’d like,” Mr Parker said.
“The more rain we can get in a timely fashion means we can get our operations done in a timely manner.”
Being of service to humanity
Rozita Yaganegi is of the Baha’i faith and believes Christmas is a time to focus less on material things and more on people’s needs. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
Rozita Yaganegi fled Tehran as an 8-year-old in the mid-80s on the back of a camel when crossing the mountainous region in Afghanistan.
Ms Yaganegi is member of the Baha’i faith and along with many other members of the religious community she faced persecution in Iran.
“It [Baha’i] is about unity between human beings. We consider all of us as being equal, we consider that every human being has been created with god given virtues and characteristics,” Ms Yaganegi said.
Along with inclusivity, the Baha’i faith has a strong focus on carrying out work in the spirit of service as part of daily life.
“Baha’is do believe in being of service to humanity,” Ms Yaganegi said.
“It is an absolute privilege to be a member of the Baha’i faith and that privilege should be shared with the rest of the community.”
At Christmas Ms Yaganegi’s family does not put up decorations or exchange gifts.
“We need to be a bit more detached from material things, we need to be a lot more inclusive, we need to be more loving, and be mindful of the needs of other people,” she said.
A time for making amends
Medical oncologist Dr Robert Blum says Christmas is a time for making amends and spending time with loved ones. (ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)
When oncologist Robert Blum first started training as a junior doctor he knew immediately he wanted to work with cancer patients.
Working as part of a team for the “greater good” and remarkable patients was what drew him to the speciality.
“It’s a very special relationship. You get to know some very intimate things about people. There’s a great degree of trust,” Dr Blum said.
While he said it was a privileged position it was not an easy one.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is acknowledge that it’s a difficult situation. We don’t have answers to everything and sometimes that is the best you can do,” Dr Blum said.
At Christmas the collision of festivities with unexpected health news can mean an emotional time for patients, particularly when a prognosis is unfavourable.
“It reminds them that they may actually not have another Christmas. It can heighten that feeling of mortality,” Dr Blum said.
“This whole period is about people spending time together, and it’s about making amends and really enjoying each other’s company.”