December 15, 2010

Christmas where the gum trees grow*

I haven't been a great fan of Christmas since I stopped drawing Santa's footprints in soot on the hearth beneath my children's stockings. But that doesn't mean I don't retain certain Christmas associations.


Christmas is...
fairy lights cheering up dismal wintry days
the start of longer days
taking leave from work when you wouldn't otherwise
traditional foods and strong opinions about them
real coniferous Christmas trees
roaring log fires and/or central heating on constant
brief forays outdoors to walk off overindulgence
deep-and-crisp-and-evenness
woolly layers and fingerless gloves

Christmas is not...
searing heat and high humidity
cold food
barely visible little lights on blindingly sunny days
artificial trees/wreaths (so they'll survive presumably?)
lots of time outdoors
days at the beach
very few clothes and sunscreen

In my new subtropical surroundings, I am gradually getting used to life without light summer evenings and with prolonged, seriously heavy, horizontal rain (introducing the new weather phenomenon, the 'supercell' thunderstorm). And avoiding the sun, which was previously unheard of. I am slowly coming to terms with the winter solstice in the middle of June and school kids on endless summer holidays in December and January. But Christmas in hot climes? It just ain't right.

Back in 'winter', we stumbled across a 'Christmas in July' street party down the road. This may well have been just an excuse for a party. If it was an attempt to make Christmas slightly more Christmassy, then it didn't really work in Queensland: it was a clear, very pleasantly warm day and no one needed more than a T-shirt.

Many years ago I was in Sydney in December. There were Christmas trees everywhere and fake snow sprayed into shop-window corners. It had never occurred to me that the Australians would do cold-climate christmas paraphernalia. This afternoon I wandered around Bulimba looking for evidence of the rapidly approaching festivities. I was kind of relieved to find only this, and a couple of forlorn, non-real wreaths.

On the advice of expat friends, we're leaving Brisbane for our first Christmas a long way from home, and going to Melbourne. We'll spend Christmas day with my LBF (long-been friend) for the first time in about 15 years and then we'll mosey on down to see my son on the Great Ocean Road. It will be lovely and it will be Christmas, just not as we know it.


* Lyrics by Val Donlon and Lesley Sabogal

With thanks to Escober's Highland Farm, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, for the tree pic




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