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Well, the world as turned, as it does, and the calendar has flipped over, as
it does, and Christmas Day has dawned in Australia.  Actually it dawned
about three hours ago, but I was snuggled under the doona at the time!

For those of you who are shivering in the cold, icy Arctic winds and wishing
you were in the sun somewhere, and for those of you who are on your own and
feeling a tad sad about it, I thought I would share my Christmas Day with
you - guaranteed to bring a smile to the dial!  And you can always hit
delete!

Australia is such a multi-cultural country that we have taken snippets of
Christmas here and snippets of Christmas there and combined them into
something unique.

Christmas Eve is the day of the BIG SPEND - even if you have been organised
for CD (Christmas Day) since the last January sales, everyone goes shopping
on CE. Sociologists (or whoever it is who do these things) have 'discovered'
that the department stores are full of blokes who leave everything to the
last minute because they are 'too busy' to shop before (huh, and we women
aren't?) and the supermarkets are full of women doing the food thing because
'fresh is best' and heaven forbid that we might run out of anything in the
24 hours that the supermarkets are closed.  Yeah, yeah, I was there too -
but only because I was getting stuff for hubby to take fishing with him :>}
But my trolley did not look like we were anticipating a FAMINE!

Managed to avoid the shopping malls (I snuck in the night before and joined
the throngs at the midnight special) but did have to go to the hardware shop
for gutter guard and a hammer!  The cash registers there ring louder than
Christmas bells because it is holiday season here and so all the men HAVE to
go and get this, that or the other to show that they have at least thought
about doing all those outside bloke-things while they are on holiday.

It was very hot (about 90 in your language) and w-i-n-d-y!  Which is very
sad because that is the best recipe for bushfires and sure enough .... there
are more than 70 fires raging across NSW alone, and here in the ACT  (which
is a land island surrounded by NSW) we have huge problems.  We are known as
the Bush Capital and while for 363 days of the year, it is just wonderful
being just a few minutes from tracts of native and exotic forests, there are
a couple of days when life is a tad tricky.

Although where we are is safe right now, we did have to make a quick visit
last night to make sure mother-in-law was okay because she lives in an area
that was covered in thick smoke.  Eucalypts give off the most wonderful
smell when they burn, but it comes at a cost. She has heart problems
(surgery in the very early New Year) so being the dutiful daughter-in-law
.... Anyway she was okay, but it was strange to look up into the night sky
expecting to see a big fat fella in a red suit driving a sleigh and reindeer
and seeing a helicopter with a huge water bucket instead!

Because of the fires and the road closures, church carparks were not as
crowded as usual - many obviously taking the advice of Emergency Services
and staying home to watch the annual Carols by Candlelight broadcast from
Melbourne.  Earlier in the day there had been a lot of traffic, although
Sunday was worse, as families head off to the coast or to relatives for
their annual holidays, but the roads were very empty as we drove home.
Empty and eerie! But the custom of decorating the outside of the house with
lights is catching on so we did a bit of a detour to have a squizz at what
some folks do to make life lovely for others.

So instead of the traditional gathering of neighbours around the barbecue
hoping the children will run around and yell and tire themselves out, this
city was strangely quiet and subdued.  Families often choose to end the day
with a walk around the neighbourhood to look at the lights but even this
wasn't happening a lot.

And so now it is CD - and it remains quiet.  The radio is playing all the
traditional songs (and the ads - never let it be said that the holiness of
Christmas Day got in the way of someone making a dollar!) and there is just
the usual crappy Christmas fare on television.  If those programs were
chosen to entertain the kids so that parents could get an extra bit of
shut-eye, then it is no wonder the kids are bollocking about!

There is a total fire ban in place so that will put the kybosh on a lot of
traditional Christmas brekkies - that's when all the friends and neighbours
get together for bacon and eggs on the barbie (cooked by the blokes with
hangovers as penance) while the kids show off, share, try out, break and
destroy all those things that had been the focus of their dreams for the
last few weeks!  It will also send more than a few cooks into a spin as the
barbie is becoming the best means of cooking on hot days, although today
there is usually something more exotic than snags and onions!  But,
remember! these were the very ladies who had their trolleys piled to the
clouds yesterday, so you can bet that among all the stuff there were
CONTINGENCY PLANS and these are now being put into place.

Across the city - indeed, across the nation - lamb, pork, ham, chicken and
turkey are having done to them all those surgical procedures that turn them
into a feast that will last for hours, as many carry on like it is the Last
Supper!  Then when all are stuffed to the brim, the men will fall asleep,
the women will do the dishes and then it all starts again for Christmas tea!

Me? I am heading back to bed for an hour or two to bury my nose in The Lord
of the Rings while hubby reads the paper. (Number-one-and-only dropped in
last night to say hello and it is too early to ring the other relos!)

But later on we are doing the annual thing at sister-in-law's house (if we
can find a way to get there because we are in the north and they are in the
south and the roads in between are closed) with four generations all getting
in the way of each other, so when I come home, making my annual vow that
NEXT year I am going to have Christmas dinner at a restaurant, I shall share
with you what an Australian Christmas is like.

That is, unless Santa has popped $1 000 000 in my stocking and I go to
lastminute.com and buy a flight to the Antarctic!

Merry Christmas
Barbara
Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian
Palmerston District Primary School
PALMERSTON ACT 2913
AUSTRALIA

T. 02 6205 7241
F. 02 6205 7242
E. barbara@austarmetro.com.au
W. http://www.palmdps.act.edu.au

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