Well howdy all – just one more sleep and yes, it will be Christmas yet again. It’s amazing how you blink, you’ve spent far too much money an it’s suddenly Christmas, right?
Well, I’ve been back for just over a week and the contrasts couldn’t be greater I guess, yet even in Australia it’s Christmas on Wednesday. The main single difference, of course, is the weather. Interestingly when I travel people are still often surprised when in December I would tell them it’s summer in Australia.
We were last in Spain and Portugal at the end of our trip, and they’re not snowy places where it’s freezing in winter, although before Spain I flew in from Minsk where I crossed the tarmac at minus 8. In Spain and Portugal we had temperatures (maximums) of 14 to 22 degrees (one day in Barcelona) and generally sunny weather. We did note that countries to the north and cities such as Paris and London weren’t in double figures though.
So, how do those temperatures compare with what we have here? Well, in Melbourne on Friday last week it was 44 degrees, our hottest ever December day and the hottest day in Melbourne since 2009 when we experienced ‘Black Saturday’ in Victoria, a day when Melbourne nudged 47 degrees (hottest EVER) and around 200 people died when the state was devastated by bushfire,
Some suburbs of Melbourne such as Frankston were threatened by fire last Friday, but at the moment, as has been on the news internationally, in NSW and also around Sydney suburbs bush fires have been raging for over month now. Last week two fire fighters died. So things in Australia are not the best at the moment – we also had the hottest day the entire country has ever had on Friday, and there’s a very good chance that will be beaten later this summer as it is set to be really hot summer indeed.
Otherwise though, things are not so different I guess. Although it should be said that Christmas in Europe is different to an Australian/American Christmas in many ways I believe, with far less of am emphasis on gift giving. Two days ago at a shopping mall I say a kid, not sure how old but I would have to say at least 7 or 8, lying on the ground outside a shop crying and screaming, presumably because he didn’t get something he wanted.
Whilst this is not the norm, I assure you, Christmas is certainly a time here for giving (and therefore receiving) gifts, and when it comes to kids, even I find myself buying loads of toys that probably aren’t needed. Nevertheless, Australian businesses are reporting a very flat sales period at the moment. In fact, here at least, it’s usual that people spend more on the after Christmas sales. Presumably on themselves! Without a doubt, we are a consumer society. And apparently we are not consuming at the rate that the economy requires.
I know in Eastern Europe presents are not the focus of Christmas. In fact, in many places such as Russia, Christmas is a very small celebration with New Year being more important. In Portugal, I got the sense that the outlook on the festive season is closer to Eastern Europe than the USA. The nights were punctuated by decorations in Lisbon and Porto, including a giant red ball in the Chiado area and lights above the streets.
Here I haven’t been into the CBD since returning. The department store Myer is famous for its Christmas windows display, and there are certainly no shortage of decorations, but here, like the USA, it’s the suburbs (usually concentrated into certain areas) where people decorate their houses, and in some places it becomes a bit of a competition to see who can have the biggest and boldest Christmas decorated house.
And then on Christmas Day, Australia will have a variety of different Christmas Dinners served. Because we have people from all over the world. In my family it has always been and I think it will always be – Turkey. Italian families though, for example, will concentrate more on seafood. Other families may just go for a BBQ. In Portugal they will concentrate on Portuguese meals, cod is a big winner there. It’s in all the restaurants but also a favourite to be dished out for Christmas dinner.
We will celebrate Christmas, presents and food, on Christmas Day – but in a lot of Europe, it is more common to do all this on Christmas Eve – Portugal and France for sure. And I think Germany.
So then, if you are celebrating Christmas this year, how will YOU celebrate it? Please comment below, and May the Journey Never End!