Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas In Australia

It's Christmas Down Under, and just as you've probably come to expect, it's weird.

For one thing, it's summer in Australia for some reason.  Oh, sure, I've heard all about the tilt of the earth's axis and the astoundingly boring scientific explanation for why Australia is six months out of synch with the rest of the world (New Zealand and South Africa excepted).  But I have the distinct feeling that the real reason is Australians simply want it that way out of sheer obstinacy.  What the locals refer to as "bloody-mindedness."

That's when, if you have absolutely nothing to lose by doing something that would be of tremendous benefit to others, but because you have nothing to gain from it, you don't do it.  Bloody-mindedness.  Politicians get accused of that a lot here.  It's what Ebeneezer Scrooge had, before he found his Spirit of Christmas Presents.

If the rest of the world has Christmas in winter, Australians just HAVE to be different and hold it in the middle of summer. "That'll show the bastards," is probably what they are all thinking.

I haven't felt the spirit of the Christmas season once in the ten years I've been here.  It's usually just too darn hot!  Too hot to bake Pfeffernüsse, Lebkuchen, cookies, fudge, divinity, roast turkey, Stollen, or any of the traditional winter holiday foods that I associate with Christmas.  Too hot to go out shopping for gifts, and too hot to sit by a glowing fire in a woolen sweater reading anything whatsoever by Charles Dickens.

While people in the northern hemisphere are enjoying a day out in the snow, getting windburn and the occasional touch of frostbite, Australians head for the beach for a sunburn and an occasional shark bite. While kids north of the equator are trying out their new snowboards, toboggans and skis, Aussie kids are trying out their new surfboards, boogie boards, and air conditioners.

My Christmas Dinner
Up north, you'll be having roast turkey, goose, ham, more turkey, mashed potatoes, hot chocolate, and still more turkey. In Australia, you get a barbeque.  And not like an awesome Southern barbeque - I mean just frying some steaks on a grill with maybe some prawns on there to classy it up a bit.

Down here, your uncle Albert would still get drunk and make a nuisance of himself at the family get-together, but the difference is that in Australia he'll likely be wearing a speedo as well.

With all that that entails.

Up north, Santa delivers gifts in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.  In Australia, Santa does his rounds in a clapped-out Holden Ute.  But don't hold your breath.  It's a big country.  And Santa doesn't always remember to check the coolant level before heading out.

Santa calls out some other reindeer names that can't be printed here.

I've touched on some of the uniquely Australian characteristics of Christmas previously.  We have Christmas spiders (Austracantha minax), Christmas trees that you must not cut down (Nuytsia floribunda),  Christmas island (a refugee detention center), and Christmas Crackers.

The first time I was offered a Christmas Cracker, I declined.  "I can have crackers any old time," thought I.  "Hey, it's Christmas - let's eat some crackers!"  Could Australia really be that lame?

It turns out that Christmas Crackers aren't Saltines or even Ritz.  They're something even more lame.  Looking like someone's attempt to gift-wrap an empty toilet paper tube, they are supposed to explode when pulled open from the ends.  Someone's idea of humor, I guess.  But in reality, they make an almost detectable "tch" sound when detonated.  Once opened, they reveal a plastic choking hazard and a hat made of tissue paper.  And boy when you're wearing a hat made of tissue while trying to dislodge a miniature plastic desk lamp from a toddlers mouth, the fun just never stops.

My recommendation for your holiday travel is to visit Australia at some time of the year other than Christmas.  Unless you really like spiders, overweight men in speedos who have had too much to drink, and tissue paper hats.

Merry Christmas, one and all!


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