Ooooh, I love the new site counter. I'm so curious to know which of you comes from where. So far, my readers are in Australia, the US, Canada and Bulgaria.
I was thinking about this today as I pushed my way through the crowds doing their Christmas shopping in town. Have you Americans thought about what Christmas is like in Australia?
My foreign housemates say "Great, Christmas in Oz means Christmas on the beach!" I love that. I've never ever spent Christmas on the beach.
I've always felt a little unsettled by Christmas. Usually it's bloody hot. But the traditions don't reflect the climate. We still have the fake snow on the windows. We have plastic mistletoe and plastic holly, because the holly doesn't fruit this time of year. As a kid, I would swelter in the kitchen before christmas as we baked a ham, and made a pudding and christmas cake. We'd do heaps of baking. And we'd be baking.
And don't get me started on Father Christmas! Those poor bastards that dress up for the kiddies. Furry white cuffs, big fake beards and heaps of stuffing under the santa suit. You can see them sweat; if you're lucky you can sometimes see them pass out from heat-stroke.
Oh, we make some half-hearted attempts to 'Australianise' Christmas. Occasionally you'll see kangaroos pulling the sleigh instead of reindeer. But really? If you think about it, would that work? Kangaroos hop. Sleighs slide. Not a match made in heaven.
More than half of the cards and the wrapping paper and the advertisements still have a mid-winter theme. I know a grand total of two Australian Christmas carols; the rest are all your northern winter ones. Jingle bells doesn't mean much here.
My favourite carol was probably 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas'. I so badly wanted a white Christmas. The whole culture around me was telling me that it should be winter for christmas, and I thought for a long time that the country, the land I was on, was wrong somehow. It was Australia's fault that it was summer. It didn't occur to me until I was much older that maybe it was the culture that was wrong. We are hanging on to traditions that just don't fit. And sticking a few gum leaves on doesn't really help. It doesn't change the fact that we are celebrating what is essentially a mid-winter festival in the height of summer.
I'm quite happy to celebrate Yule in winter with the pagans. But turning the wheel of the year 180 degrees isn't all that's needed here. We need to create our own traditions, based on the country we're in. The Kaurna people, the indigenous inhabitants of the area I live, had six seasons. They could see and feel those seasons. But somehow we try to cramp them into four, because the traditional model of four seasons is what our ancestors knew. But how long do we have to be in a country before we look to the land for our symbols? Or are we going to be facing north forever?
Stay tuned for 'Why I Hate The Easter Bilby'.