Friday, June 15, 2007

Always winter but never Christmas

While you are all preparing for the summer solstice, I am sitting at work wearing a knit cap (ok, admittedly it's because I put my hat on when my hair was wet, and now I'm forced to wear it all day or have hat hair from hell.) The sun has barely risen when leave for work at 7:30, and it's dark at 5:30. Also, it's gotten cold. Not objectively cold--though after several months of 30 degree weather, 15 degrees feels pretty chilly. And at night, it does get cold here, lows are around 5 degrees, though it was only 2 degrees last night. (There was actually FROST on the grass and car!). Of course, what makes the cold worse is that Australian home's aren't really all that prepared for it. Dave's house has heating in the kitchen/family room through the floor, and a little fireplace, which isn't bad, but it's a huge drafty room with high ceilings and lots of windows & doors. There's no heat at all upstairs, though we finally got a little mini heater. That's better than most. Few homes have any heating beyond a fire place, mainly because it doesn't often get this cold. My hostel has no heat either, just a little oil heater in the TV room, at reception, and a sauna out back. In fact, if you're sitting indoors, the cold seems worse than it actually is. Often I'll be at home shivering in a sweater and scarf. When I go out I'll bundle up with a jacket, scarf, and hat, but then when I go out I don't get more than a block without having to take it all off, and by the time I've gotten to my destination, I'll even have my sleeves pushed up. Of course, back inside I'm putting it all back on.
But what's most depressing is that we get the worst parts of winter--short days, rain--without the best parts, which is all the festive holidays designed to ward off winter depression. No Christmas, New Years, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, no anything, unless you count the Queen's Birthday. As such, there's no excuse to put up lots of decorations and lights, have lots of parties, and stuff yourself silly, and sing Christmas carols. Australians swear that their system is better. They say nothing beats a summertime Christmas, where you can go to the beach and have seafood and surf. But to me, I'd rather have my fun spaced out. Summertime is already fun enough without having to throw a major holiday. Summer is when you can have picnics at 8 pm and eat fresh berries and go camping and surfing or swimming outdoors and hiking--it doesn't need Christmas.
Winter, on the other hand, is just bloody depressing. And while you can surf and eat seafood in the summer when it's not Christmas, you definitely can't do special Christmasy things when its not actually Christmas. Somehow it's completely unacceptable to put up a tree, or sing 'deck the halls' or exchange presents unless it's actually December 25, nevermind that probably wasn't the actual date of Jesus' birth. Plus, since Christmas is traditionally a northern hemisphere holiday, all the traditions are designed for winter. A Christmas tree in the summer when it's light until 9 seems a bit pointless, and no one wants to eat ham and gingerbread and drink mulled wine or spiced cider when it's above 90 degrees. And of course, 'let it snow' doesn't have the same ring when you're at the beach. So it seems like Christmas in summer is a bit worthless--after all, all the traditional things aren't as important, and you can be off having fun regardless. But in the winter, you just have to be depressed and pasty with no respite.

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