Celebrating X-mas in July
This is the time for Santa banter. Christmas is just around the corner! Did you think it was still six months to Christmas? Not here in Australia. Here, in the southern hemisphere, we are in the middle of winter, and celebrate Christmas in July.
There are no Christmas carols. No Christmas trees. No presents either. Christmas in July is a simple tradition of sitting down to a festive dinner, in the style of a European Yuletide winter.
Not everyone does it. But many do, because Christmas on December 25 feels very incongruous indeed. It is almost impossible to eat traditional Christmas fare of ham and turkey in the middle of a scorching summer on this dry continent. I have vivid memories of a Christmas Day when a school classmate rang from New Zealand to complain about the heat.
I asked him what the temperature was in Gisborne. "A sweltering 25 degrees Celsius," he replied. I laughed out loud. “Vincent," I said, “It's 42 degrees here."
But things are so different right now. What little greenery remains on the rose bushes has withered in the cold. We have already had the first pre-dawn frosts in the suburbs. The most common way to deal with ice on one's car is to use the garden hose and spray it off. No matter how cold the water, it is still warmer than the ice that coats the metal of the car.
But you know what the special challenge is this year? We are slowly recovering from a bad drought, and there are severe restrictions on how much water one can use up. Now that's what I call cold comfort.
What is better than listening to a great rock band? So if you were trying to decide whether to buy tickets to Queensland band Powderfinger's show or to New South Wales's Silverchair's, you no longer need worry.
The two have announced plans to tour the country together, in a nine-week extravaganza called Across the Great Divide. The chart-toppers, with 18 ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) awards between them, presented the concept to the media in a unique joint appearance that was light-hearted in nature but serious in message.
The much-awaited tour will be carbon-neutral, with both bands investing in a wind farm. They will also promote awareness of various high-minded causes, specially the need to foster closer ties between the indigenous people of Australia (shamefully treated in earlier centuries) and the subsequent white settlers. They will be hitting every major city, as well as 14 regional centres. And they are not ruling out the possibility of a few pranks in each others' dressing rooms either.
Some weeks ago, this column reported the opening of 'The Cube' on the 88th and highest floor of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne. Eureka Tower, as is well known, is the tallest building south of the Equator. The Cube is literally a glass cube that hangs out of the top of the tower, projected three metres further towards the sky, and it can be very hard to handle.
One well-known Melbourne radio host, Jo Stanley, who is afraid of heights, actually burst into tears during a gutsy live-to-air presentation.
But there is another side to The Cube. It has a perfect record when it comes to marriage proposals.
In the few weeks that it has been open, every time a man has popped the question here, his intended bride has answered in the affirmative.
(The writer is a Melbourne based journalist and photographer, and author of the novel Vegemite Vindaloo)