OPINION: C'mon Aussies - is this the real Christmas spirit?
A FEW years ago I left Tullamarine Airport on Christmas Eve, donned in reindeer ears, heading to Port Vila in Vanuatu.
In my wake, a debate raged that Christmas had become obsolete and its meaning should be removed from the teaching in schools.
It felt cynical and bitter in a culture that was rich in so many ways.
Hours later, walking through the streets and shops in a poor, developing country that is 85% practising Christian, I was surrounded by Christmas carols, gospel music and laughter.
The contrast couldn't have been more obvious.
Australia has become cynical about Christmas, with religion at the heart of the dissent. But I have to ask, is that bitterness displaced?
Is it more what Christmas has become in our secular society and in trying to take the message of Christ out of Christmas?
Once upon a time, Christmas was a time for believers to celebrate their faith and the gospel.
Non-believers saw it as a time for family, to share gifts, feast and for at least one day, to think about what was good in the world.
Now that it's been hijacked by commercialism, Santa Claus has become the main focus.
"What do you want for Christmas?" has replaced the spirit of giving for too many people.
If we take away the meaning of Christmas, of love and hope, what have we left?
As I spent the next three weeks in Vanuatu, wealthy by comparison, I wondered who really lived in the richer culture.
Merry Christmas everybody. I hope you stay safe, have a well-earned break and spend it with people who love you.
And for the cynics among you, have fun reading our exclusive interview with Santa Claus here.
Christine McKee is the editor of The Observer.