Christmas ! not what it used to be
It is Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 1836. The heat is rather trying, 100 deg. in the shade. A number of immigrants, dressed in their best, and carrying their seats with them, are on their way to the rush hut of George Strickland in Kingston. There is no clergyman among the pioneers, but it is Christmas Day, and Sunday, so divine service must be held.
The 'gun' has already been fired intimating that the time for the service to begin has come. About 25 persons are present, all strangers in a Strange Land.
After the service, the pioneer fathers and mothers, with their children, walk back to their tents.
The sun is shining, and the birds are singing, but everything seems so strange. The previous Christmas was spent as every other Christmas had been, in the dear old motherland. It was cold and gloomy; but the yule log crackled and sparkled in the fireplace, the old home was decorated with holly. They had their Christmas dinner surrounded by the comforts of civilization.
This Christmas they are on the shores of an unknown country, living in tents and reed huts, with the heat 100 deg. in the shade. There is neither horse nor cart in the land; no baker nor butcher shops; no streets, houses, gardens, or churches. What the future has in store, these resolute men and women cannot tell. They have come to try a great experiment, to colonize a land which for ages has been shrouded in gloom.
We talk of our hardships to-day: but look at the founders, sitting down to their Christmas dinner in 1836. They are destitute not only of the luxuries, but of the very necessities of civilization.
The table is an extemporized one; the seats are boxes and packing cases; tin pannikins do duty for cups and saucers. There are no roast geese or turkeys; no Christmas tokens, or glad family reunions.
No! in place of these there is the thought of a land and of loved ones far away — a land whose streets perhaps they will never again tread, and loved one's whom probably they will not again see.
Said one of our lady pioneers:— "It was sometimes very hard to forget all that we had left in the old country, and particularly friends, and to determine to make the best of our surroundings; but we all managed to put up with the roughness, and be contented... No one appeared to fear for the future, although, of course, no one could anticipate what the future would bring forth."
Think of the children who lived in the tents and reed huts at Glenelg South Australia in 1836. Think of the children who sat down to their first Christmas dinner then. There are no shops or stores from which father and mother have been able to buy books or toys. No fruit or lolly shops from which to purchase sweets. No trains, no traps, no horses, no streets, no gardens, no houses. They are living in tents and rush huts on the shores of what Col. Light has called Holdfast Bay. They have just returned from church service, conducted in a rush hut.
Time for dinner has come. The table is fixed up, perhaps using a few boards, laid upon cases. The cloth is spread, the tin plates and pannikins are brought in. Mother carries in some ship's biscuit and salt pork: perhaps father has been able to secure a few parrots or cockatoos, and mother has been able to make a parrot or cockatoo pie. Some have been fortunate enough to secure a piece of the cow that fell into the lagoon and had to be killed, and some perhaps have a piece of kangaroo.
Boxes and cases are drawn up to the table for seats; grace is said: and father carves and serves out the salt ship's pork. the parrot pie, or the kangaroo.
There are no French beans, peas, or cabbages, no cherries, apricots, or peaches. After dinner there are no Sunday, school gatherings, with hearty singing and bright speeches. Even a long walk is quite out of the question, for there is the danger of being lost in the bush.
Such was the first Christmas Day in South Australia.
The fathers and mothers who came to found South Australia in 1836 and who sat down to their first Christmas dinner in this land, were splendid men and women, the pick of Old England. They were really heroes and heroines, they were bold, determined, brave and resourceful. They had come to subdue a wilderness, to colonize an unknown land; they felt that their strong arms, determined wills, and faith in God would carry them through.
There was no Government to which they could run when they wanted a house built, a road made, or a bridge constructed. No; they felt that they were equal to all the difficulties of the position, and proved themselves to be so. They laid the foundations of the City of Adelaide, forded the rivers, cleared the forests, built their houses, planted their gardens, worked 14 and 15 hours a day, and were as happy as the bees who made sweet music in their gardens, or the birds that sang in their trees. The girls and boys who sat down to that first Christmas dinner were like their fathers and mothers, so they successfully laid the foundations of this beautiful and prosperous State of South Australia.
Christmas is a day to reflect, to remember your ancestors, the pioneers who took that giant leap into unknown lands across the globe.
I often hear the phrase "times are tough" used today, but look around, and thank your ancestors who overcame tougher times. Remember their bravery and sacrifice to fulfill their dreams to make a better future for their children and children's children. For you.
Merry Christmas to Scott and all at Familytreecircles