The lull after Christmas

expenses-2011
expenses-2011 (Photo credit: Kyle McDonald)

I’m going to describe a graph, but I’m uncertain what to label the vertical axis. Probably labelling it “energy” would be the closest. The horizontal axis is definitely time, measured in days. The graph as a whole describes the Christmas – New Year period.

Starting on the day before Christmas Eve, the “energy” is high as people rush around preparing for Christmas. The mood is generally on the up, looking forward to the Christmas break. This year, as Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday, most people would have been off work, many until after the New Year holiday, so the Monday (the day before Christmas Eve) and the Tuesday (Christmas Eve) become part of the holiday.

Some children looking at a selection of Christ...
Some children looking at a selection of Christmas Cards during the 1910 holiday season. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christmas Eve itself is an up day as everyone makes final preparations for the big day. Last minute shopping, cleaning, tidying have to be fitted around present wrapping and ensuring that the menu for the next day is in place. Some people prepare all the vegetables for Christmas day and nearly everyone remembers to get the turkey out of the freezer. Parents with children often face the twin task of preparing stockings and making the kids go to bed with the hope that they will finally drop off. Sometimes the duties extend well beyond midnight.

sleeping kids = clean house
sleeping kids = clean house (Photo credit: RAPACIBLE)

Christmas Day itself is a day of at least two parts. No matter how late they went to be the kids will wake up early, no doubt rousing their parents from some hastily snatched hours of sleep, then the day continues from there. Many families still go to church in the morning though this practise is declining.

The church of Tilly-la-Campagne with Christmas...
The church of Tilly-la-Campagne with Christmas lights (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rest of the morning goes into cooking, eating, and no doubt drinking, as well as unwrapping presents, stopping kids (and older people) squabbling about trivialities. All this peaks when lunch is served. In the southern hemisphere, if it doesn’t rain, this may be eaten outside.

Christmas barbeque
Christmas barbeque (Photo credit: QuinnDombrowski)

In the afternoon, the mood declines to the point where some people may become comatose. Granny always sleeps in the afternoon, but so will Uncle Bill, who ate too much pudding and drank too much alcohol. Parents with kids might not be able to relax completely and may be arm-twisted into games of backyard cricket, at least in this hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere parents will no doubt be required to help with those construction toys or technical gadgets that the kids have been given. Nevertheless the mood is definitely down on the peak of the Christmas meal.

Julie's New Toy
Julie’s New Toy (Photo credit: camknows)

Boxing is interesting. It may be a down day, if for instance you have over-indulged the day before. Or it may be an up day if you are interested in the ‘traditional’ Boxing Day sales. This year I had to make a small purchase so I went to the local mall. The place was crowded, but unfortunately for the retailers there was a glitch with the EFTPOS systems and all purchases had to be strictly cash. I believe that spending on Boxing Day 2013 still broke records.

English: White Christmas at Baltasound Well, B...
English: White Christmas at Baltasound Well, Boxing Day actually; looking across the Houb towards Valla Field. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Boxing Day comes the lull. I’m writing this halfway through the lull, which extends from the day after boxing day to the day before New Year’s Eve. Most people celebrate the New Year, even if it is at a much less energetic level than Christmas Day. I generally stay up on New Year’s Eve to ‘see the new year in’ for no very good reason, I admit. Some people choose New Year as the chance to drink and eat more than usual, as a sort of full stop/period to mark the end of the holiday, even though they may not be returning to work until the beginning of the next week.

new year mice
new year mice (Photo credit: Natasha Fadeeva)

But back to the lull. The lull does not have to be an emotional down period, but it is probably, for most people, an energetic down period. People have survived Christmas and have a lesser celebration to look forward to in a week. It is a time for relaxing, taking the kids to the beach or the movies, visiting Granny, or merely settling down with that book that someone gave you for Christmas.

It’s a time for eating increasingly stale mince pies, trying to find leftovers interesting, and generally  tidying up the loose ends of Christmas. Maybe a trip to the mall with that token someone gave you. Maybe watching the England – Australia test match.

Boxing day test cricket, mate!
Boxing day test cricket, mate! (Photo credit: simonhn)

It’s a period with intrinsically no pressures, though for some people their circumstances may override this – from those who are about to give birth to those about to depart this life and those experiencing all life’s dramas in between, this period can be highly emotionally or energetically charged. But in general, it is a lull.

So my graph starts off low on the eve of Christmas Eve, and climbs through Christmas Eve. I originally wrote ‘climbs steadily’, but it may climb erratically but will trend upwards until the end of lunchtime Christmas Day. Then it drops dramatically, during the afternoon, as people relax after the exertions and excitements of the morning. Even washing up, while a chore, is still at a lower level than the peak of Christmas lunch.

Times Square on New Year's Day
Times Square on New Year’s Day (Photo credit: davehunt82)

On Boxing Day the graph may rise a little (for the shoppers) or drop (for those ‘tired’ from the exertions and consumption of the day before). And then comes the lull, a tranquil period between Boxing Day and the eve of New Year’s Eve, a relaxed period for most, I’d say. The graph remains low and level with maybe a lift as New Year gets closer.

On New Year’s Eve the graph may rise again. Some people like to party on the turn of the year, but the intensity of the celebration may not in most cases match Christmas. With the exception of the celebration of the year 2000, there is no real drive to make New Year an intense experience, though people do gather in the likes of Times Square to ‘see in the New Year’.

So, there you have my graph of the Christmas/New Year period. The rise from the foothills of pre-Christmas to the Everest of Christmas Day, followed by the valley of the lull before New Year and the minor peak of New Year itself. It remains to mention the lowlands of the period before those who work return to it at the beginning of January.

English: Sometimes the voice of Taka's Pack Re...
English: Sometimes the voice of Taka’s Pack Readers will lull him into a nap. But they are brief because he doesn’t like missing any part of a story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I hope that all of you who celebrate Christmas had a good one and are looking forward to a pleasant New Year, and best wishes to those who do not celebrate this season either because of religion or conviction and those whose calendar does not align with the one to which I am accustomed.

Happy New Year (white camelia)
Happy New Year (white camelia) (Photo credit: tanakawho)

Love Actually….

(I’m running late this week. I hope to be on time next week).

English: Beautiful scenery beautiful love story.
English: Beautiful scenery beautiful love story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Love. The word is thrown around with gay abandon, people claim to be motivated by it when they do extraordinary things. It’s been the subject of literature, from classics to stuff which perhaps should never have been written. Atrocious poetry attempts to define it and celebrate it, and sublime poetry achieves its heights for the same reasons.

There are many sorts of love, man for woman, woman for man, and also the love of a person for another of the same sex. People love animals and people love children, though there are certain loves of these kinds which are strange, bizarre, or wrong. There are the loves for team mates or squad members which strengthens the team or squad, to the extent that in wartime a squad member may sacrifice himself for the sake of the others in the squad.

Team GB
Team GB (Photo credit: the_junes)

People love things. The new Maserati, Holden or Ford. The latest iPhone. An iPad, or other tablet. A new dress, new shoes, new Gucci bag. A new hairdo, new sneakers or a nice juicy steak.

I love a good lie-in in the Morning. Some (who in my opinion are slightly insane) love to be up with the lark. Some love a tropical beach, others an alpine traverse. Some love to run, to the extent where sometimes they will run for hundreds of kilometres.

New York Marathon 2013
New York Marathon 2013 (Photo credit: jaroslavd)

Most people love a challenge, a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. Some love competing with others, some love to challenge themselves by jumping out of a plane, or climbing a high peak in the mountains.

Maybe some would quibble that I have used the word ‘love’ above where others would have used ‘like’. I make no apology for that as the one shades in to the other. But what are the characteristics of love? I’d say that no one definition fits all cases, as is common with any human characteristic.

Cherub
Cherub (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Love primarily is understood to be most simply defined by the (usually) male/female couple. In a marriage ceremony, at least in the Christian rites, the couple pledge to love each other, (amongst other things). In other religions where marriages may be arranged by the parents and the couple may not know each other very well at the time of the marriage, I do not know what pledges are made. Of course, it is not unknown for marriages to be arranged in countries that have adopted the Christian religion. If fact it is probably more common than people realise. The opposite probably holds in countries where the religion is not Christianity.

Rahul's Arranged Marriage (2005)
Rahul’s Arranged Marriage (2005) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m aware that the above is horribly full of unwarranted assumptions and suppositions about culture of which I know little. Someone once joked that in a Hollywood love story, boy meets girl, they fall in love, and get married. In a Bollywood (Indian film industry) love story, boy meets girl, they are married, they fall in love.

A quick scan of the synopses of both Hollywood and Bollywood shows that the truth in much more complex. The Internet Movie Database like 50 Best Bollywood films, and the teasers for the films show plots which would not be out of place in a similar list of Hollywood love films, with only minor amendments. The Hollywood films tend to replace parental pressure with a societal one, but much else remains the same. The gloriously over-generalised Hollywood love story is boy meets girl, they are forced apart because perhaps one is one is from the wrong side of the tracks (a Hollywood favourite), or they initially hate each other, or they are about to be married to others, or they somehow misplace each other. Finally they resolve whatever difficulties separate them.

V.V.Pukirev - The Arranged Marriage
V.V.Pukirev – The Arranged Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps there is only one love story, across all of mankind – boy meets girl, difficulties keep them apart and either they resolve them (happy ending) or they don’t (tragedy). Now I come to think of it, most love stories apart from fairytales are of the second sort – the films “Love Story”, “Titanic” and perhaps “Gone with the Wind” bear this out.

But what is love? It is something some people spend all their lives looking for, and something which others find easy to find. Spousal love seems to be a binding force. It creates an unbreakable team and gives a couple extra power over adversity through synergy. Spousal love can lead to a long lifetime together and passing on within hours of the second spouse when the first dies.

Long Wedding Dress for Couple with Flowers
Long Wedding Dress for Couple with Flowers (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Love in unidirectional. One can love someone without being loved back, but if one is loved back a positive feedback is achieved. Love is happiness, except for the case where the love is not returned, not even recognised. Love is eternal, except when the love ends. That is, if one loves one cannot conceive of the love ending. Love is generous, gentle and giving, unless the love of the loved one is claimed by another, in which case love engenders hate and loathing. Love is unselfish, unless the love is such that family and friends are cast aside. Love is selfish when the lovers are so engrossed in each other that worldly events pass them by.

love is not selfish
love is not selfish (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

The Bible says this about love:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This verse from 1 Corinthians 14:4-7, which is often used in marriage ceremonies in Christian churches only gives the positive aspects of love which is returned. Misdirected love has caused everything from domestic disputes to full scale wars. The mythical Trojan Wars were supposed to have been about the love of Helen who was already married to Menelaus for Paris. The story may have been based around true events which may have separately happened over some time around 1190BCE.

greece - scene of the trojan war
greece – scene of the trojan war (Photo credit: Xuan Che)

One can paraphrase the writer of the Epistile and say “Love is impatient, love is unkind. It is envious, it boasts and is proud”, because often it is. Love is not always good. But when it conforms to the Epistile writer’s definition, it is the oil that helps to make the world go around.

Love Actually
Love Actually (Photo credit: nehuenmingote)

Grandad’s a Geek!!

Geeks

The original geeks were sideshow performers who did disgusting things like disembowelling a chicken and eating it raw. They often had mental issues and lived in squalid conditions, maybe even cages. They might be billed as “a savage from the depths of darkest Africa” or some such nonsense but more likely they were just people who had sunk to the bottom of society and had fallen in with the carnival. Alcoholics who would work for a bottle of moonshine would reputedly sometimes  act the wild man for the carnival.

The film “Nightmare Alley” tells the story of one such geek, from his start as a sane and relatively normal person, who joins a carnival and works his way up to fame and fortune, only for his world to collapse around him, to his final fate as the alcoholic carnival geek.

Nightmare Alley

The word “geek” (together with the similar word “gook”) has been used as a derogatory term for Asian people by Americans and others during war time. Troops were supposedly encouraged to use such terms in order to “dehumanize” the people of the countries which were being fought in or over. Hence the connotations of dislike that comes with the word.

The word “geek” meaning a clever person may possibly have its origins in the United Kingdom. It’s possible that its use in this sense may have arisen when the word which had been used to target overseas people was instead used to target unlikeable  people much closer to home! The person who top scored in all tests and had no social graces became known as a “geek”. Of course, in some cases the so-called “geek” eventually by virtue of his smartness became the employer of those who belittled him at school.

Nerd

In the highly technical world that we live in, the “geek” naturally became a wanted person and while the term is still often used in the derogatory sense, it can be a term of back-handed admiration, and the term is often proudly asserted by the geeks themselves. Indeed, having worked in Computers and Information Technology for all of my working life, I somewhat proudly consider myself to be a “geek”.

79-365 I am a computer geek!

The techno-heroes of the current day are the likes of Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne of Apple, and Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard of Hewlett Packard. There  is a sort of sense of awe that these geeks have achieved so much.

Latter day geeks have had films made about them. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zucherberg has been portrayed in a film, in a not so flattering light, I understand, not having seen the film. The school geek appears late on in the film “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” to whisk the eponymous heroines off in his helicopter.

Cover of "Romy and Michele's High School ...

“Geeks”, “boffins”, “back room boys” have existed in every era of history, no doubt. They are relied upon to produce the technical goods while being regarded both as humorous and not quite normal. However their status has risen of late, driven by the vast technological boom that pretty much started during the Second World War. The Dambusters, the Enigma machine and the atomic bomb all came from that era and after the war the boom exploded.

ENIGMA cipher machine collection
ENIGMA cipher machine collection (Photo credit: brewbooks)

Geeks and computers go together. In the beginning, in the late 1940s, large machines started to appear in back rooms, tended by men and some women in white coats. These mysterious machines performed strange calculations and the geeks in control were treated like high priests of some mystery cult.

At this time a relatively new company called IBM rose to prominence and dominated the new field of computing. Mainframe computers as they were called swiftly spread to many companies, and special rooms were built to house the multitude of beige cabinets that formed a mainframe computer system. By the 1980s there were many computers performing many different tasks and companies began to depend on them.

English: IBM Personal Computer model 5150 with...
English: IBM Personal Computer model 5150 with monochrome phosphor monitor (model number 5151) and IBM PC keyboard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However there were smaller, simpler computers starting to appear. Many households of that era would have had a Sinclair or Commodore or Atari computer on which to play games. IBM introduced a computer of this size, the IBM Personal Computer, but then they dropped the ball. While IBM is still one of the biggest companies in the world, they did not really embrace this technology, allowing the rise of the PC.

IBM System/360 at the Computer History Museum.
IBM System/360 at the Computer History Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One company did embrace the technology and realised that the way to make the big money was not to provide the hardware, but to provide the software that ran on it and Microsoft became its rise to prominence, like IBM before it, and the Microsoft Operating System became dominant, and is still dominant today.

1993 - Grandad's old computer setup, Irith -
1993 – Grandad’s old computer setup, Irith – (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

So what has this got to do with Grandad? Well, the current generation wonders whether the older generations will “get” the new technology. Consider though. Grandad will be 60-ish, right? That will mean that he would have been born in the early 1950s or late 1960s. In the 1980s he will have been around 20 and just the right age to take part in the spread of computing around the globe. He may have had a Commodore or an Atari at home.

Commodore 64
Commodore 64 (Photo credit: unloveablesteve)

In his thirties he will have seen the rise of DOS and Windows and he may even have had a 386 machine at home. Possibly he became proficient in DOS and the early Windows being what it was he probably was proficient obtaining and loading “drivers” for his machine.

It is likely that he has experienced the joys of persuading a  modem to connect to a bulletin board, or through a fledgling ISP to this new thing, the Internet. He may have spent hours downloading a blocky, slow game to display on his CGA-capable monitor, transferring it down the telephone lines at the rate of a few bytes a second. A megabyte download might have taken half an hour or more.

古董
古董 (Photo credit: alanine)

As the Internet grew he would have switched to the Netscape browser and accessed the Internet at 2400bps, then 4800bps, then a massive 9600bps and on to an astronomical 56kbps! Doubtless these days he uses some form of broadband or cable connection.

Today’s geeks believe that because they have grown up with the technology that Grandad (even Dad) will not be able to cope with it. They conveniently forget that while they may have grown up with the Internet and the technology, the Internet and technology have grown up with Grandad!

Blowing out Grandad's birthday candles
Blowing out Grandad’s birthday candles (Photo credit: djdpascoe)

The black dog

English: A black dog
English: A black dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is insidious. It can be attracted by the most innocuous of happenings, such as losing a sock. You can expect it after a mini-disaster, but it doesn’t come. It can come on a bright or a dark day, a high day or a normal day. It can come when you win the race, but stay away when you come last. You cannot predict when it will come.

I fully understand why those under its spell commit suicide. It makes any achievement worthless, makes the future into a black pit. Those who succumb may be weaker than most or stronger than most. Weaker because they give in to the black dog, stronger because it takes a sort of strength to kill one’s self.

Despair
Despair (Photo credit: fakelvis)

The black dog turns you in on your self, eats you up internally, until you are a shell. The world may see you smiling and joking, while inside you are decaying, eaten up inside like a caterpillar infected by an ichneumon fly. Everything is filtered through it, so it affects everything that you do. Everything is flavoured by it, or more correctly, over-flavoured by it. Sweetness is saccharine, bitterness is burning, sourness is acrid, saltiness is excessively salty, pungency is repelling. Everything is metallic in feel or taste or smell.

I call depression ‘entering the chrome world’. In the chrome world everything is a glitzy, like a 1950’s world in the ‘modern’ style. Everything is sharp-edged and out to snag you or harm you. All surfaces are slick and smooth and encourage things that you put down to slide and slip. Lights are neon bright and shine into your eyes. Voices are loud and raucous, high and penetrating. You know that if you put down a drink it will slide away or get knocked over, and a dropped coin will roll away either to an awkward place or will disappear. You know that this will happen, even if it doesn’t.

Chrome
Chrome (Photo credit: DeusXFlorida (3,454,860 views) – thanks guys!)

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. That would involve caring. You could be outwardly cheerful and sociable, (though it is unlikely) and yet be withering inside. More often you just want to be alone, which can upset loved ones who want to help you.

Depression makes you irritable. You don’t see why others care and it seems so pointless to you. If others ask how you feel it is impossible to say. They may have felt ‘down’, and they know that they have been able to overcome that feeling with effort, or maybe chocolate and a glass of wine, so they don’t realise that depression can’t be shifted simply by making an effort, or with simple treats. If you want someone to do something and they ask why, it can infuriate you. Petty things, like finding a knife to be blunt when you need a sharp one become frustrating out of all proportion.

English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced
English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depression can only be alleviated by time or chemicals. Doctors will prescribe drugs to, hopefully, stop the onset of a bout of depression, or to dispel it. They seem to work pretty well, and with modern drugs you no longer need to be ‘doped to the eyeballs’. Nevertheless the depression still seeps through at times. If life is a switchback, up and down all the time, drugs can reduce the depths of the downs, but probably also reduce the height of the ups.

Depression is also associated with dissociation. More or less this is an extension of the lack of caring, about what other people do, what they might do to you. It’s like being in the cab of a truck, but as a passenger, not as the driver. The driver decides where you are going and you have no input into that. It’s as if the driver won’t even acknowledge your presence and indeed in extreme dissociation, its as if you have no physical presence in the cab of the truck.

1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck o...
1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck on display at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum. Cab from left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a form of fatalism as you don’t care what happens, whereas in fatalism, you might care keenly what happens but be unable to do anything about it.

Depression trumps love, and depressive people often push loved ones away. If the loved one doesn’t know what is happening that can be distressing to them and may actually create a split. Even if the loved one does know, the depressive person’s desire to be alone may be, will be, felt by the loved one as rejection.

A depressive episode is endless. By this I mean that the depressed person will not and cannot believe that the episode will end. The depressed person will not be aware, often, that they are suffering a depressive episode, so they do not know that it will almost certainly end at some stage.

English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of...
English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of loved one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll wrap up with two points.

Firstly, I believe that it is impossible for a person who does not suffer from depression to understand what it is like, just as one could not imagine what it would be like to be a bat. Sure, one is a mental difference and the other is a physical difference, but to experience something is a mental experience, man or bat, depressive or non-depressive.

Secondly, I am not currently experiencing a depressive episode, or am anywhere near experiencing one. I can’t remember exactly how I got onto this track, apart from the fact that I was trying to find a subject for this weeks blog and this somehow came to mind. So there is no need to send out rescue parties!

Happy Face
Happy Face (Photo credit: Enokson)

Actually a third wrap up point comes to me. In discussing what makes a person, philosophers often conjecture what would happen if someone’s brain were transported into another body. My third point is the question “Assuming that it is agreed that the transplanted brain results in the transplantation of the person, would that person be susceptible to depression, or would it be possible that the new body’s chemistry would be different enough that the person would no longer suffer from depressive episodes?” Certainly a large part of our personalities are determined by the subtleties of the chemistry that takes place in our bodies, and depression can be alleviated by drugs. Maybe I’ll go deeper into that another time.

Phone Brain Transplant
Phone Brain Transplant (Photo credit: Sorbus sapiens)

…for Christmas comes but once a year (Southern Style)

The Examination and Trial of Father Christmas,...
The Examination and Trial of Father Christmas, (1686), published shortly after Christmas was reinstated as a holy day in England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year” said Tomas Tusser. Many people would rather it didn’t. Christmas is a time when stress levels go through the roof. People eat too much, drink too much and spend too much, meaning that January, a time when people traditionally go on summer holidays in this part of the world, is a time of dieting and financial restriction. Without careful planning the later part of the year around Christmas and the New Year can get very messy.

Another area of stress is in the receiving and giving of presents. Trying to decide who to buy for and what to buy for them is always difficult and many people resort to providing cash or vouchers or gift cards, and it still doesn’t remove all the issues. A card for a department store may be just what someone wanted, or it might languish in a drawer until it expires. Apparently by some estimates $2 billion of credit on gift cards goes unredeemed. But then again, a tie or socks might also be banished to the back of someone’s wardrobe.

20091226 - Christmas presents - misc - gift ca...
20091226 – Christmas presents – misc – gift cards – GEDC1240 (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

The religious aspects of the holiday (“Holy Day”) are often ignored, and though thousands may gather for the “Carols in the Park”, few of those attending will go to church during the holiday. These aspects also exclude those of different religions, nominally, but many non-Christians celebrate some aspects of the holiday anyway, and gather for family time and exchange presents.

Christmas parties are a feature of the period before Christmas, and again, while one might think that those of other religions than Christianity would be excluded, office and private parties do not exclude non-Christians. In fact parties around this time of year are an opportunity for people to eat and drink and socialize and religion seldom figures.

English: Christmas is over 1 It must have been...
English: Christmas is over 1 It must have been some kind of party in Gillingham around New Year’s Eve 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The secularisation of Christmas is both good and bad. Good, because it is not exclusive, but inclusive, and bad because it hides the traditional reasons for Christmas. But even within Christianity the reasons for Christmas are being lost – Christians buy Christmas trees and Christmas lights, and exchange presents, eat turkey and drink alcohol, all of which hark back to times before Christianity, to times often loosely called pagan.

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...
Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed it is often said that Christmas is when it is simply to align with the so-called pagan festivals of mid-winter that celebrate the solstice. The winter solstice marks the time of year when the sun reaches its lowest point of the year and is closely related to the shortest day. Of course in this hemisphere the solstice is the summer one, and the sun is at its highest, so the day is the longest one. This usually happens around 21st of December.

English: Musicians on Sydney Harbour during 20...
English: Musicians on Sydney Harbour during 2001 Xmas holidays. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The traditional northern hemisphere Christmas is in mid-winter, more or less, and the traditional fare is heavy mid-winter fuel of turkey with stuffing, vegetables including potatoes, with gravy and followed by heavy fruit pudding and mince pies.  In the southern hemisphere the solstice is, as I said, the summer one, and, really, the traditional fare is probably unsuited to the climate. The southern hemisphere is developing a tradition of holding a barbecue for Christmas dinner, thereby replacing the turkey with steak and the heavy root vegetables of the northern hemisphere with salad and the Christmas pudding with ice cream. The heavy room temperature ales favoured north of the Equator are often replaced by lighter chilled beer and lager.

New Years 2010-2011
New Years 2010-2011 (Photo credit: russelljsmith)

Some of the more modern symbols of Christmas northern hemisphere style have received a southern hemisphere make-over. Santa is still a fat old man with a beard, but his clothing is often changed to, more suitable for the climate, board shorts, though they will still be in the “traditional” Coca-Cola red, and even on the surfboard he will likely retain the floppy hat. The reindeer are, at least in Australia, replaced by kangaroos.

Santa Claus, Christmas Parade, Lambton Quay
Santa Claus, Christmas Parade, Lambton Quay (Photo credit: Velvet Android)

Southern hemisphere cities tend to put on “Santa Parades”. I don’t know if this happens much in northern cities, though I do see a website for a Santa parade in Toronto. It seems to me that the weather would be better in the southern cities! Strangely the big man, who always brings the end to the parade in the last float, usually wears the full regalia of red suit, boots, and cap. He must swelter!

This has been a rather unstructured look at Christmas with an emphasis on the southern hemisphere celebrations where they differ from the northern version of the same. All that remains is for me to wish anyone who stumbles across my blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ngā mihi o te wā me te Tau Hou.

Pohutakawa
Pohutakawa (Photo credit: StormyDog)