After a year of highs and lows take time to smell the roses

The day before Christmas. For many it’s the beginning of the holiday season, when celebratory provisions are bought and prepared, gifts are wrapped, last-minute chores ticked off, candles are lit and carols are sung. A whirl of activity.

It has forever been thus. The origins of Christmas can be traced back thousands of years in Europe, where the northern hemisphere winter solstice – usually December 21 or 22 – was celebrated with multi-day feasts and gift-giving. It was a rowdy affair. Some attribute the transition to a quieter, more family focused celebration of the birth of Christ to Queen Victoria and her brood of nine children.

More recently it has been a festival of consumerism and many people, who did not think ahead or order online, will have spent the past few days desperately doing last-minute Christmas shopping.

Unlike Britain, Australia is, of course, blessed with a warm climate. Christmas Day can mean a day at the beach or camped by a river. And our cultural diversity has ensured that the traditional baked turkey and pudding often gives way to a seafood spread or barbecue and a piece of pavlova.

However you may choose to celebrate Christmas Day, if indeed you do celebrate it, we hope that it includes a moment to reflect on the year that was. It was not without its usual highs and lows, and some unexpected twists.

This was the year that we stopped talking about “learning to live” with COVID-19 and finally did it. No more grim press conferences, or much anticipated daily drops of data. That’s not to say COVID-19 doesn’t still cast a dark shadow over our lives. Having tested positive, many will spend their Christmas Day isolating or possibly worse. But for all the ongoing threat of COVID-19, this was the year our lives returned to relative normality.

It was also a year when the abhorrent reality of war returned to Europe. President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, an ignominious effort to reconstruct a post-communist Russian empire, rapidly became an embarrassing quagmire that exposed many of Russia’s economic and military shortcomings and the ruthless vanity of its leader.

Closer to home, the federal election in May had more consequences than most. The Morrison government, having carried the burden of managing the pandemic, appeared tired and out of ideas. Its legislative agenda had stalled. Former prime minister Scott Morrison appeared incapable of fighting off the teal challenge over his lack of progress on a federal integrity commission, climate change and issues over women’s safety and equality.

Out of office for nearly a decade, Labor has the look of a government savouring its time back in power. With a generally government-friendly Senate, it has pushed through a raft of big policy changes that had been stalled or were ideologically too unpalatable for the Coalition. Australia has gone from a climate laggard to one with ambition. It will take time to see if Labor can turn that ambition into real progress.

It’s not been all smooth sailing. It has been more than 30 years since inflation has upended Australia’s economy. In response, the Reserve Bank of Australia has lifted rates for a record eight consecutive months to a 10-year high of 3.1 per cent. The murmurs of a possible recession are growing. But that is for next year to worry about.

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