First thing to remember is that we are in the southern hemisphere. It’s hot! Although it’s what I’ve always known, it still sounds odd to be singing about holly and mistletoe. I’ve never seen a real sprig of either of them, never mind figgy pudding. (By the way, the spell-check’s take of figgy pudding gives me foggy, fuggy, fogy and Figgie…)
Many of us grew up with the European traditions – a huge cooked Christmas lunch, right at the hottest part of the day. The leftovers would clutter up the fridge until New Year. My mother always took her annual leave around Christmas, and ended up working harder than she did at the office.
It’s amazing how some traditions stick through generations. I grew up with some children of German descent and envied them hugely since they got to open their presents on Christmas Eve. Come midnight on New Year, we always ‘first-footed’ – I have no idea what part of Britain it comes from – and we still do it today. One year we got to know a Scottish family. Their son played the bagpipes most evenings, walking up and down in a stand of blue gum trees behind their house. We could hear it if the wind was in the right direction, and I have never heard a more eerie sound. They turned up at our house to start celebrating New Year at midnight, just as we were going to bed, having stayed up to see in the New Year. To them, midnight was when things got started.
Then there are the new traditions. Decorating the outside of houses is fairly recent around here – it has only taken off in the last five or six years. However, there were pioneers doing it before that. One long-term decorator includes the pavement in front of his house and the trees down the road, creating a tunnel of lights.
One nearby house seems to have adopted the more-is-more policy – anything that lights up is used, so you will find Santa Claus next to a camel and a wise man hobnobbing with a snowman. We have two highly decorated houses in our street, and every evening from about eight o’clock you can hear the cars driving by at slow-enough-to-see speed. The more-is-more house often has cars parked in the street while people walk around. And that is unusual in this part of the world. We have a high crime rate, and a house without burglar bars, high walls and a couple of big dogs is rare. Families wandering around together at night is also rare. Except just before Christmas.
So best wishes for a blessed holiday season from the other hemisphere. Fake holly, figgy pudding and all.