10 November, 2006

Christmas is Coming

It’s almost always sunny here. It’s always green. The trees don’t lose their leaves in winter (not the natives anyway) and there are always flowers of some kind blooming all year round. And because Brisbane is just a few hundred kilometres from the Tropic of Capricorn, the winter days are only a little shorter than the summer ones.

As a colleague of mine once remarked, ‘In Brisbane you can’t tell the season by looking out of the window.’ He’s wrong – if you know what you’re looking for – but he’s right enough.

So it’s always a bit weird when Christmas starts to loom.

My poor brain, trained by several decades of living in England, Scotland and Switzerland, expects the darkness to start seeping into the daytime at both ends, it expects the cold to grow ever more penetrating, it expects lowering clouds and squally rain, bare trees and stuffy, overheated houses. Instead, it gets clear blue skies and warmer nights. Then, just when I’m starting to think about beaches and cold cocktails by the pool, up pops Santa!

Of course, he pops up earlier and earlier each year. This year the first displays of Christmas tree decorations and Christmas cards appeared in September. I suppose, given time, this Christmas bling bling will be on sale all year round. Then you won’t be able to tell the season by walking into a shopping mall either.

It’s a shame, though, that Christmas in Australia has all the same trimmings as Christmas in Europe. I know that’s because most of the people here came from there – and not very long ago either. But it’s so weird to have pretend snow and icicles all over the place when the weather is a humid 35 outside. It’s odd to sit in a café in shorts and sandals when there’s a guy in a fur-trimmed red hood and stout boots sweatily yo-ho-hoing nearby.

Why can’t Santa be a barefoot surfer, his reindeer flying dolphins? Why can’t we deck the halls with boughs of grevillea? Why aren’t our Christmas trees wattles, our decorations banksias cones and gum nuts, why not kiss under the Cooktown orchid? It’s all nonsense anyway, so why not have some appropriate nonsense?

Yet it is the old nonsense that has a way of persisting, year after year. It seems that a European Christmas is as indestructible here as an Australian plastic banknote.

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