Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas, summertime, and cognitive dissonance

  This December has been my third Christmas season since moving to Oz in December 2009. I think for the first time since we moved here, I'm feeling settled enough to allow myself to notice the extraordinarily bizarre way in which Australians adopt all the practices and customs of the Northern hemisphere holiday in blatant disregard of the fact that we are approaching summer solstice.

  I spoke to a mum from our kids' primary school today, and she confessed to having a surface sense of the strangeness of decorating with snowflakes.  I believe, however, that most Australians are unable, and will always be unable, to appreciate the deep meaningfulness of all these customs in the same way as those of us who grew up north of the 45th parallel.

  Some Melbournites spend a lot of hours affixing thousands and thousands of Christmas lights to their houses.  I  imagine having this conversation with any one of them:

You realize, don't you, that the POINT of putting up Christmas lights is to lift everyone's spirits in the coldest, darkest, most horrible time of year--when everyone is feeling suicidal because they're half frozen and and haven't seen the sun in 10 weeks?
Huh?  Oh--I think I know what you mean.  I remember once back in the winter of '79, there were like 3 days when the temperature dropped below 10 degrees (Celsius--that's 50 degrees Fahrenheit), in July.  I wasn't old enough to really remember, but my parents were traumatized for years.

  The other evening, about 6:30 PM, I was walking along past the coffee shop near my home. The sun was still high in the sky, and it was about 79 degrees F outside (that's 26 C). Blaring over the sound system from the coffee shop was some Christmas song the lyrics of which were about "frosty air".  Most Melbournites, I assume, have never actually experienced frosty air.  I certainly haven't seen any since moving here 25 months ago.  Maybe when they fly for ski vacations to New Zealand or something.

  The Australian church fathers, whoever they might be, should have done us all a favo(u)r and, having consulted with their magi/scientists, when they arrived they should have flipped the church calender about a 6 month axis.  Then, even though it never gets cold and never actually gets properly seasonally dark either, and even though the days are still longer than they're meant to be at winter solstice, at least there'd be SOME sort of reasoning behind trying to cheer yourself up a little in June/July, using festive sparkly tinsel and bulbs and lights and feasts and so forth.


  1. We don't have church fathers! convict stock, you've married!

  2. This fellow seems to disagree with you. I guess they were too busy violently stealing land from the prior inhabitants to think about flipping the church calendar as I've suggested.

    Anyway, I'm guessing the convicts were, by and large, willingly or unwillingly, Christians. Or at least that they celebrated Christmas December 25th.