Right now, I’m sitting with a severely over-priced fresh fruit smoothie under a palm tree in one of the lesser frequented parks of Melbourne City Centre. To my left is the river, behind me is a skate park, in front of me I can see one edge of the Olympic Park that’s still under construction and to my right is a fairly busy main road. Alexandra Gardens is the name of this particular green oasis in the concrete jungle that is a city centre. And I can’t see any tinsel, any Christmas decorations, or hear the beat of a Christmas song (but maybe that’s due to late 90’s to early 00’s pop music blasting through my headphones right now… and my body’s too bootylicious for ya babe!).
That’s not to say that there aren’t signs of Christmas all over the place though. There’s a fantastic Nativity scene in the cute little Christmas Wonderland where you can meet Santa Claus (yeah, we did!) that’s all set up just along from the town hall, where there is a nightly illumination that may or may not have been designed by some people on a serious trip! There are some very large Christmas trees and a collection of super-tall Beefeaters that stand guard outside the town hall and along Swanston Street.
There is a beautiful recreation of Melbourne made from gingerbread and marzipan that is truly spectacular to see – Luna Park and the Royal Melbourne Childrens’ Hospital that I lived opposite to for a time are just a couple of examples that stood out for me.
There is a giant Christmas Bauble that is lit up with around a million tiny little fairy lights that you can’t quite appreciate in the day-time and you can’t really photograph in the night-time.
Then there’s the job I’ve just finished. Knocking on doors means you walk through a lot of gardens, you see an incredible variety of Christmas decorations; and when you’re really lucky, you get to walk into a house. Some of these houses have got glittery Christmas wreaths on the door, twinkling lights from every window, “Please stop here, Santa!” signs, reindeer antlers poking out of family cars on the driveways, overlarge striped candy canes sticking out from flowerbeds or sad looking plant pots, or any combination of the above. Some of them have fake snow sprayed on to the inside of window panes. What the actual…? Why do people from the Southern Hemisphere feel the need to associate Christmas with snow? I’m not sure it has ever snowed in Melbourne, despite the thoroughly changeable weather. It’s not like baby, it’s cold outside kinda weather, but I’ve heard that one more than a couple times.
Next, the thought of a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings isn’t really floating it for me this year. I haven’t had any decent gravy since I left the UK. They do chips and gravy at the chip shops, but it’s just not the same as good old fashioned Bisto! Isn’t weird what you miss? In fact, I haven’t had a roast dinner in all the time I’ve been away, now that I think on it. The thought of putting the oven on and having roast potatoes when the temperature is going to be above 30 degrees in Sydney next week, not to mention the fact that I’m going to be in a hostel is not a welcome one. Anything off a BBQ that someone else has cooked though, sounds great to me! Christmas cookies though. I did make some of those.
Our work’s Christmas ‘do was a boat cruise down the Yarra River, and though it was a great excuse to dress up, and there was a lot of sparkling wine that got consumed, it only felt remotely Christmassy because we sang Fairytale of New York at the tops of our voices. And when I say “we”, what I actually mean is all the Brits! Apparently, that song doesn’t translate too well. I don’t know, probably because most of the words are slurred into one another, but it was a good nod to the festive season.
Lastly, I haven’t had to do any Christmas Shopping this year. I received a card with an essay in it, but I haven’t had anything else, not do I have any little kids in my life this year that I need to buy for. And that’s a lot of what Christmas is about these days, isn’t it? Peace on earth and goodwill to all men. And presents for the sake of presents. And family time, whether you want it or not. And I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the over-commercialised nature of Christmas this year like you get in the UK. Because it’s all so forced here, you don’t tend to get sucked into it like you do at home and it’s refreshing. Plus a BBQ on the beach sounds like my kind of Christmas.