For the uninformed, the soundtrack to the crazy season maybe Mariah Carey singing “all she wants for Christmas is you,” but for those in the know, those who grasp the genuine essence of the holiday, only one song counts.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Paul Kelly’s How to Make Gravy, which has become the classic Australian Christmas hymn. Aside from supplying our most remembered recipe (flour, salt, a bit red wine, and a dab of tomato sauce), the song has given birth to our favourite national holiday: Gravy Day, or December 21.
Every year since then, on this day, the words “Gravy Day,” “Paul Kelly,” and “21st of December” have reappeared, with Aussies as well as some foreigners participating in. Celebrity chefs have even created recipes based on the song lyrics, which ask for “flour, salt, a little red wine,” as well as a “dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness”.
While it’s all in great fun and a nice reason to listen to a Christmas song that isn’t by Mariah Carey or Michael Bublé, the tune that inspired the unofficial holiday is a somewhat depressing ditty.
We’ll never know what the prisoner did to end himself in jail during the holidays, but the sorrowful way he sings about missing his family and reminiscing about good times past strikes home – especially in the last couple of years.
Many Australians spent last Christmas separated from their family due to lockdowns, border restrictions, and pandemic worry. Many people will confront that reality again this year, making the song all the more poignant. Even without Covid, the fact is that for certain people, Christmas may be a very melancholy time of year.
That’s presumably why Kelly released a new version of How To Make Gravy, along with a new music video, this year. The film showcases families who are all dealing with the reality of lockdown in a really nice way.
The song can be found on his new Christmas album, Christmas Train, which was released in November of this year.