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22 December 2011 ·

Translating Christmas

Translating Christmas

My Christmas reflection this year is an excerpt from The House at Evelyn’s Pond, (lightly edited to make sense on its own). Rereading, I’m not surprised people think I’m Jane; it sounds quite autobiographical, and I have to remind myself that I’ve never made a cassata.  But my mother-in-law did ask if there was Christmas in Canada, and I guess that’s how fiction works: you take that one line, and work forwards, or backwards, from it, till you start to believe your own lies.

Happy  Holidays to everyone, whatever, however, and wherever you celebrate.

By Jane’s first Australian Christmas, ten months after stepping onto the hot tarmac of Tullamarine, the farm was starting to feel like home. It was very nearly true, as she said in her holiday cards, that she hadn’t even had time to be homesick. She’d lost none of her Canadian longing for spring and sunshine; she felt herself thrive as the temperatures began to climb:  ‘Think of me sunbaking on Christmas Day,’ she wrote to Patsy and Gail, ‘while you shovel snow!’
It stayed true all the way to the day she went Christmas shopping. It was a hot day, nearly a hundred on the old thermometer. Maybe that’s all it was. The Christmas lights were dim against the glare of the sun, the Santa Clauses sweltered in their fur-trimmed suits, and the canned carols of winter cold and evening dark sang surreal and alien. 
She got home to find the red candles in her cleverly adapted bottlebrush arrangement on the windowsill melted into sad, recumbent curves, which was not supposed to happen at Christmas, because Christmas was supposed to be in the winter. Christmas was the butterfly anticipation of hanging stockings on the mantelpiece and the 4 a.m. waking to wiggle toes to the end of the bed and feel for that same stuffed stocking with the lumps and bumps all the way down to the tangerine in the toe, and going downstairs to the magic of the lit tree and the presents heaped under it, and only crumbs and a rimmed glass left from Santa’s milk and cookies and the carrot for his reindeer gone too. 

The House at Evelyn’s Pond is available as an ebook here

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio