Quoting from our city newspaper.
No other country in the world has so many reasons to lie back and enjoy the break: Christmas, cricket, a yacht race, days of heat and a long twilight, New Year's Eve, four weeks holiday - six weeks for the kids - and Big Day Out. It just drifts on and on, like an endless summer. Meanwhile on another part of the planet, it's cold, it's grey, it's raining, it's snowing - they dream of summertime, some place else, like Australia.
Sadly I beg to differ. Reading about the snow and cold in North America, it does seem to be a bit extreme but to me summer is unbearable heat, waiting for the sun to set so the house might cool down, nothing on television except the boring cricket and although I enjoy watching the yachts sail down the harbour (on TV) the interest disappears once they are out the heads with more than a day before the leaders reach Hobart. I go to bed as usual on New Year's Eve but may set my alarm to get up and watch the fireworks on TV at midnight. Big Day Out is definitely for teenagers, not my type of music so summer goes on and on, the plants growing faster than I can weed or prune, the insect bites covering my arms after an hour or so of gardening and itching for days and the beach is a no go zone for me with my skin cancer. January seems endless as I miss seeing my friends and cannot wait for all the senior's activities to begin again in February. Thankfully there has been quite a bit or rain this year so it is very unlikely that bushfires will occur in our area. I am suffering from a summer cold. I cannot remember ever having a cold in winter but always get one in Spring (so have had 2 this year so far).
Australians have largely given up on roast dinners for Christmas, seafood is all the go and the news is already about huge crowds at the seafood markets on Christmas Eve. If the church was to emphasise Leviticus 11:10-11 rather than Leviticus 18:22 I would be supremely happy. I do not see anything to rave about in prawns, oysters, crabmeat etc. My sister is aware of this and had a seafood lunch with her husband's family a few days ago. While we will probably have salmon entree (first course) which I do like, we will have cold turkey and ham with salads for the main course and it is compulsory that we have hot Christmas Pudding with brandy and white sauce which I love.
We are returning to having Christmas at her place this year. After Mum's death we started going to a club for lunch as my sister did not like the empty dining table (My sister, brother-in-law and me make up the whole of our family now). However after 2 years at the club I have convinced her to have lunch at home again as I did not enjoy sitting in a room full of strangers. It will be rather late as we will attend Eucharist at St James at 10 am first so not reach her home until about 1pm.
The forecast this year is for early showers and moderate temperatures (mid 20's C 75F) which is not perfect for those who prefer to have Christmas at the beach especially tourists from Europe but will be just nice for the rest of us.
I remember Christmas 2001 when the temperature was in the high 30'sC (over 100'F) and we ate under the air conditioner in my sister's home with blinds drawn unaware that in parts of the city people were fleeing from bushfires. I had needed to take a detour to reach my sister's the night before due to bushfires in the lower mountains. The next day I took Mum to my place as normal in those days and passed near the fires to the east of my home (Fires generally come from the west). However I then received notice that a fire started by lightning way to the south-west was headed my way so rang my sister to come and take Mum back home along with my most valuable and portable possessions. The fire finally arrived on January 4 and passed through my garden about 6 in the morning with fire engines in every driveway. The waiting had been far worse than the actual fire experience.
New Year's day in 2006 I spent at my mother's place (her need for oxygen meant she could no longer holiday with me) with the air conditioner we had bought for her a few days earlier as the temperature reached 46'C (115'F). It was then that I determined to emigrate to New Zealand but thankfully the summers since have not been as bad.
Many Australians will leave for their vacations on Boxing Day (December 26) so the roads and airlines will be packed. I will settle down to gardening and reading both books and internet.
Another Australian custom is Carols by Candlelight. Our weather allows us to sit out in parks after sunset (8pm) and listen to Christmas songs. The big one in Sydney was last Saturday and the big one in Melbourne will be tonight. Other smaller versions are held in towns throughout the country. While I love carols, I am not so keen on many of the sugary Christmas songs. I prefer the services of Lessons and Carols and one is being broadcast on TV from the Melbourne Catholic Cathedral tonight. Our own church held one last Sunday night. I went last year but had to leave early to catch the hourly train which got me home at 11pm. With my cold I decided to miss it this year.
Many people go overboard with lights outside their houses. Some areas have traffic jams as people try to see the lights. I did buy some over the years and string them through the trees at the front but have not had the energy to do so the last few years.
To avoid being too negative I will conclude with another comment from the newspaper.
Christmas is above all a time of hope. It holds a special hopefulness for Christians but in Australia, where the holiday feeling is all pervasive and the new year beckons with its evergreen promises of change and renewal, optimism wells up for everyone. We may be in the midst of a global financial crisis, we may be facing an uncertain future, but few of us want to think about that right now.
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