Monday, September 11, 2006

Australia in Oz

The weather here is still pretty cold, even though it’s now officially Spring. I’ve lived in Australia for 24 years, and have become somewhat used to the odd switch in seasons. But Christmas is still not right. For 30 years I lived in Michigan, and winters were fraught with snow-drifts, ice, blizzards, freezing winds, road salt and all the other hazards of a northern climate. The perfect Christmas there included mounds of pristine snow covering the ground and tree limbs outside, with frosted windows, a toasty fire and a Christmas tree glittering with lights and ornaments inside. Under the tree there’d be all variety of winter gifts – mittens, boots, coats, sleds, ice-skates. There’d be warm drinks or eggnog, and always a sprig of mistletoe.

Here in southern Australia Christmas is very different. December is scorching – and usually dry. School holidays bring thousands of city-dwellers to the coast, to enjoy the sandy beaches and splash in the clear waters of the Southern Ocean. Department stores still have fake snow decorations and Santas in heavy red suits and long, white beards. It all seems incongruous considering the climate. Christmas dinner is often served on the patio, a barbecued ham, accompanied by a variety of salads, and the inevitable plum pudding or fruitcake. Gifts consist of summer things – beach towels, swim-fins, pool toys, tanning lotion. Fruit baskets abound. Christmas trees still twinkle with lights and ornaments, but seem oddly out of place considering all the greenery and flowers abloom outdoors.

I love Australia – the people are wonderful and the land is beautiful. But I can’t deny I occasionally miss a good old Michigan Christmas. Still, this year I’ll go for a dip in the pool before dinner and we’ll sit on the back deck and enjoy the summer breezes as we have our meal al fresco. Christmas isn’t just about the weather, I suppose – it’s about good company. I hope, wherever you are, you have a holiday filled with joy, contentment and the company of family and friends.

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