17 December, 2010

A hot Christmas is hard to imagine

Swimming in the creek on Christmas day

 Talk to almost any northern hemisphere person (who hasn't lived near the equator) and they are almost guaranteed to be amazed to hear what a southern hemisphere Christmas is like.

Some will not eve be aware that the seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere. I went to the hairdresser the other week and we engaged in the kind of small talk you do with any hairdresser. This young Japanese guy was quite shocked to hear that it was even summer this time of year in Australia. I had him totally confused for a moment! Thankfully we sorted out the confusion, that, yes - we do have winter in Australia, just in the middle of the year instead of the end.

Most Europeans and Americans are fascinated at the "amazing" things Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans do at Christmas. Things as ordinary as swimming, outdoor BBQs and eating stone fruit. Santa surfing in a short-sleeved suit is one image many have heard about or seen and marvelled at.

Backyard cricket on Christmas day
The idea of cold Christmas dinner, prawns and outdoor carols concerts to celebrate the season are foreign. Most have no idea that Christmas marks the end of the school year and coincides with the long summer holidays. So that, if anything, it is busier than a northern hemisphere season because it includes graduations, awards ceremonies, end of year school, work and club parties.

I once had an American say to me that if Christmas were in the summer in the US, many shops would go bankrupt. It is a season where people spend money on expensive winter gear. They wondered what people would buy if it were hot.

To be fair, it is fairly hard for most southern hemisphere folk to imagine what a cold Christmas is like. The only advantage they have is all the stuff about "White Christmas" and "traditional roast dinner" that have been exported to them by the north. In fact many people from warm parts of the world do "dream of a white Christmas" or maybe just wonder about what it would be like.

If you're in the southern hemisphere right now, can you imagine that it is under 10 degrees outside? That we're trying not to go into rooms that aren't heated. That my hands were very chilly as I hung out the washing this morning in my bathroom/laundry. Can you imagine that I wore gloves and a scarf and a thick jacket with a hood this morning to walk my youngest to school this morning? It is equally hard for me to imagine that you are sweltering in shorts and t-shirts and craving a swim, even though I was doing the same this time last year.

Isn't it interesting that we are so influenced by our current experience that we find it hard to imagine someone else feels different? When it comes down to it, we are all profoundly self-focused and unimaginative. 

All that being said, we're going to go and do what we can to enjoy the season where we are. We learned early on in this journey in the northern hemisphere that enjoying where you are, rather than being paralysed by what you cannot have and where you aren't, is the key to overcoming homesickness. 

So, I'm going to pack my Australian-made Cadbury chocolate and head for the mountains and, hopefully, some snow.

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