News National Christmas came early for shy girl: cleric

Christmas came early for shy girl: cleric

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Australians should strive to make every day Christmas Day for the people around them.

That is the message delivered to a standing-room crowd at St Mary’s Cathedral’s annual Christmas mass in Sydney.

Thousands of worshippers flocked to the cathedral on Wednesday night for the service, led by Father Brendan Purcell.

He told a story he thought of when asked recently if he had witnessed a miracle.

He spoke about a young girl who was so embarrassed by a skin ailment that she refused to go to school and hid in her room.

He said somehow her sister persuaded her to go to school on the last day of the term, and the principal told her she would progress to the next year, despite missing around three months of school.

“They made that day Christmas for her,” Fr Purcell said.

“It’s up to us to make every day Christmas Day for the people around us.”

Most families in and around Sydney were forced to celebrate Christmas Day inside due to rainy weather.

But it was a different story in northern parts of NSW, Victoria and Queensland, where sweltering heat drove families and santa-hat sporting holiday makers to the beach.

Despite the sizeable crowds, there were few major incidents on the beaches.

“We have had tremendous numbers on the beaches and a lot of volunteers turning up to help,” Gold Coast Surf Life Saving duty officer Laurie Cavill said.

“There has been isolated rescues but no major incidents.”

Further south ambulance crews were called to Ballina and Byron Bay for a dislocated shoulder and drunk beach goers.

“All in all it’s been a good day and volunteer life savers across the state have been been on top of their game. So far nothing bad has occurred,” Surf Life Saving NSW spokesperson Matt Miller told AAP.

In Perth, surf life savers also had a “pretty good day” with a spinal injury and dislocated shoulder among the few incidents reported.

Alice Springs mayor Damien Ryan said the aquatic centre was the hot spot for the town on a rainy Christmas.

“In other parts of the world they sing about a white christmas,” he told ABC Radio.

“But this morning when I got up and the rain clouds were halfway down the wonderful Macdonnell Ranges. It looked like they were snow capped – it was pretty close for us.”

In Melbourne, where temperatures reached 31.8C, Santa dropped by the Royal Children’s Hospital to distribute gifts.

Also benefiting from the Christmas spirit were two Victorian families who had their presents stolen overnight.

Their Wodonga neighbours banded together and donated gifts to them.

Further afield, the thoughts of many Australian families were with the 2200 Australian troops deployed overseas.

Despite the end to Australia’s mission in Uruzgan province and the return of troops just before Christmas, 500 remain in Afghanistan.

Major General Craig Orme, Commander Joint Task Force in the Middle East, said senior officers would spend Christmas Day visiting troops in the region.

“Christmas on operations is a hard time. The work continues and the absence from family and friends is reinforced,” he said in a statement,

“But our personnel deployed across the Middle East Area of Operations will make time to mark the occasion with their deployed family.”