Christmas Eve. Carols by Candlelight. Mum’s chucking a wobbly

Deck the halls with aggro  and folly.When mum’s in meltdown, ’tis  the season to tune into candlelit soapie karaoke…..

T’WAS THE NIGHT  before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring,  because mum was chucking her annual Christmas Eve wobbly. “You lazy,  useless, selfish kids. Oh no, don’t get up. Don’t get off your fat,  ungrateful backsides and help your mother wrap the presents, peel the  vegetables, vacuum the house, mop the floor, clean the windows, fold the  clothes and set the table. You just sit there watching television while I  slave my guts out so you can all have your fancy day tomorrow. Don’t worry  about your mother and her bad back, gammy leg, dodgy hip, splitting  headache and (slightly louder) inoperable brain tumour the size of an  eight-year-old child. I’ll eat the burnt chop, sit on the broken chair in  the draught. God forbid you think of anyone else but yourselves.”

So  there we’d sit, in front of the Rank Arena, paralysed with fear because  not only was she wearing an apron but she was also wielding a knife. As we  smelt the pork cooking and heard the Kenwood Mixmaster whipping up yet  another pav, Karen Knowles sang Silent Night. Well that’s what we think  she was singing. We had to lip-read, what with mum slamming things and  swearing. Because what else would we be watching on Christmas Eve but  Carols By Candlelight? Church? If you feel like it. But watching Carols By  Candlelight? It’s the law.

Where would we be without Carols By  Candlelight? Probably somewhere in the Bagel Belt spinning a dreidel or in  a cafe in Sydney Road sucking on a hookah.

The subject line of a recent  email sent to me read: “Delta Goodrem headlines Vision Australia’s Carols  by Candlelight.” The most over-rated performer in Australia will lead a  “spectacular line-up of entertainers” in this year’s concert, to be hosted  by Ray Martin. Delta and Ray are joined by other people with nice hair and  fake smiles, including Bert’n’Patti, Marina Prior, Anthony Callea and  Dannii Minogue.

I find an evening full of old songs, fake breasts and  small children holding candles while wearing highly flammable pyjamas  deeply comforting. It’s a couple of hours of harmless karaoke to get us in  the mood for spending an entire day turning passive aggression into an  extreme sport. But I can’t bear the soap-stars’ versions of the Christmas  classics, complete with Mariah Carey vocal gymnastics, putting an entire scale where just a simple note will do. I like my carols like the Lord  meant them to be, drawn-out, turgid and flat as a tack.

Every year one  of the “artists” says, “I wish you could see what I see” and they cut to  the swaying crowd holding their candles, reminding us of the importance of  family, love and giving. When I was young I would think, “I wish you could  see what I see. Mum has just thrown a pav at the television and now Brian  Naylor looks like Father Christmas. And now she’s screaming at us to put  the washing in the car boot because Nana and Pop are coming over  tomorrow.”

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