Decorated pine trees, flamboyant light displays, annual Santa family photos at Grace Brothers in downtown Sydney, family gatherings with free flow of homemade flaounes (Cypriot cheese pies) and festive delicacies are some of the Christmas memories Helen Koutulakis Chrysanthou will cherish forever.
Born and raised in Five Dock, Sydney in the late 1950s to Andrea and Galatia who had migrated to Australia from Cyprus some years earlier, Helen remembers with nostalgia her childhood Christmas memories.
“A couple of days before Christmas dad would go and buy a real pine tree. He would bring it home and we [Helen and her three brothers] would decorate it. I still remember the smell of the pine throughout the house,” Helen tells The Greek Herald.
“We visited Santa Claus at Broadway to take photos and Grace Brothers in the city to see the window displays. They were made up with puppets and lights and you could even walk around the shop at night to admire all the displays.”
“When you are young everything looks so big,” she says.
Helen talks with affection about her family and remembers fondly the memories she created alongside her three siblings over the years.
“Growing up, being the only girl, I was playing cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. Mum made sure I had dolls and all the girls’ things but I was still playing with the toy soldiers and tanks.
“Our mum made sure that we all got plenty of presents for Christmas and birthdays. She always dressed us up nicely to look presentable and she did a great job in that. I was very happy growing up!”
Her father Andreas (nicknamed ψαράς) who was a well-known tailor and two of her brothers all have now passed on. But Helen is determined to keep her family traditions alive.
“It’s been difficult to deal with the losses over the years and I feel I have lost my 90-year-old mother too as her memory has degraded due to dementia. But I still have my little brother and his wife who live in Cyprus and my daughter,” she says.
“I have a lot of mum’s recipes which I use regularly and I am also teaching my daughter how to make them.
“She’s married to and English man who loves Greek food and she’s hoping when she has children one day that she’ll be able to introduce the Greek language and culture to her own family,” Helen says proudly.
“She wants to keep the heritage going.”