Ahhh, Christmas in Australia. While seemingly everyone is singing about snow and reindeer and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I’m hiding in the house, curled up in the darkest, shadiest corner I can find because the very air is on fire.
I might be exaggerating. But not by much.
It is obscenely, maddeningly, oppressively hot. The kind of hot that makes you feel sleepy and lazy and a little bit drunk, and you want to do nothing more than lie under a fan and drink pitcher after pitcher of iced tea while cicadas drone endlessly outside. Two minutes of movement is enough to send you sweating and flushed, and you’re sorely tempted to take about six showers a day just to rid yourself of the stale sweat grime that you can feel building up on your skin.
Yet this is our Christmas. We feast on cherries and prawns and pavlova, we sweat our way through midnight service, the braver of our kind slather themselves in SPF40 and take to the beaches. It is, invariably, a long, hot day. If we’re lucky, a storm rolls in late in the afternoon to break the heat for a little while.
I am not well suited to this climate. I half the year wishing summer would end, and the other half dreading summer’s return. But this is how my Christmas has always been – a curious clash of the idealised white christmas and the inevitability of the December heat. Our stores still decorate with snowflake motifs, we still sing winter-themed carols, our tvs still play those terrible made-for-tv movies where the overworked dad gets snowed in at the airport and learns the meaning of Christmas. But we take an odd kind of pride in our sweltering holiday season.
Last year, for the first time, I had a white Christmas. I spent the holidays in New York. I did my gift shopping at Macys, I went skating in the park in the snow, I watched Miracle on 34th Street in my apartment on 34th Street. It was a fantastic holiday, one I will never forget. I loved the city, I loved the cold and the snow, I loved the holiday spirit, the Christmas markets, the store windows – it was incredible, and I truly hope I will have the opportunity to experience it again in my lifetime.
But it was undeniably strange. It was, quite clearly, Christmas, but it did not feel like it. I did not miss the heat, as such, but I noticed its absence. I missed my bucket of prawns on ice, my mimosas with breakfast, my summer fruits and homemade trifle and wearing one of my many pretty summer dresses to Christmas Mass.
I’m going away next week, right up to the Arctic, leaving this godawful heat behind. But I have to admit, I’m glad I’m not missing my Australian Christmas again. It’s nothing you’ll see printed on a postcard, enshrined in a snow globe or immortalised in carols, but it’s ours.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a joyous new year to all.