Hi everyone, I'm sorry for being so late in writing this account but somehow the days have just passed in lazy contentedness and loads of social events. In Australia, as in most countries, Christmas is celebrated on the 25 of December, and Dana had a summer intensive just before the holidays, his take home was of course due on Christmas Eve. It sucks, I know! Anyhow, as Dana was plodding along with his task and getting more and more agitated about it, I went to the market to get a mango and bananas to bring to Dana's dads later that night. But as the market was about to be closed for a full week and the stall keepers were eager to get rid of all they had, everything was so cheap that I bought more stuff than I have ever done before. One young salesman got infatuated with my shorts and gave me prime capsicums (bell peppers for normal people, i.e. not Australians) for less than the kilo price on sale and another one gave me an extra banana because I liked the sticker. I had a great time, and then a horrible time trying to get all the stuff back on the bike -with no carrier (pakethållare). I tied a bunch of rhubarbs to my completely full back pack and biked/walked with one additional bag in each hand. Very heavy. And best of all, almost all of it was fruits! I loved it, having water melon, bananas, pears, peaches, rock melon, mango, and grape fruit as well as the rhubarbs, all at once! Ok, i know, I'm obsessed with fruits, but I guess I could have had worse obsessions.
Anyhow, after a fruit orgy by the swimming pool (I lured Dana out), I got dressed and headed to the Swedish Church to dance around the Christmas tree, drink some mulled wine, and watch the Disney Christmas Show. When asked later that weekend what Swedes do for Christmas I had a really hard time convincing them that I was not pulling their legs. "Yes, most Swedes start their Christmas celebrations at 15.00 by watching Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse etc.! Yes, we do dance around the Christmas tree, and we impersonate frogs, pigs, an illegally driving crow and a rocket. I'm not joking!" Funnily enough most people then wondered: "but where do you place the Christmas tree if you are dancing around it?" And I had to explain that as our houses are no bigger than theirs (but rather smaller in the cities - Aussies love space) we also place our trees in the corner or along a wall, but we pull it out and dance around it none the less. Anyhow, back to the Swedish church. I did all the crazy things above, and a few other things too. I danced and sang about the fox, the musicians, and the terribly long song about all the chores a woman did during the week a hundred years ago. It was fun to see 50 or so random people jumping around as frogs and all the other, but it was odd to dance around a piney (barrig) bush outdoors, in summer clothes. Very odd indeed.
Half way through the Disney show I left to meet Dana on the train to his dad's. We arrived late at night but still had the honor to decorate the Christmas tree before we headed off to bed. Dana was super tired but still helped out, and we were fittingly accompanied by the tv's carols. When we had already decorated most of the tree however, the decorations started to fall of - the downside with having a real tree. I put them on again... they fell off. I put them on a little firmer and finally the tree stood there glittering and nice, almost as though it was really Christmas. Dana went up for bed as I collected the left overs from the decorations, broken things, packages, and left over tinsel. As I turned around to follow Dana upstairs, the tree fell over. Water covered the floor and the gifts, and decorations were rolling around! Dana's dad tried to resurrect the tree, and his wife and I tried to rescue the gifts and decorations. Dana could hardly have reached even to the top of the stairs when the tree fell over but he didn't hear any of the commotion downstairs. Betty started drying the gifts with a hairdryer which was effective but naturally looked very silly. I started to redecorate the tree. The decorations fell off. John came back to fix the tree better (as the tree is not danced around it doesn't need to be movable, which in turn makes it unnecessary to decorate the back of it) and I gave up the decoration. When I got upstairs Dana was already half asleep.
The next morning, on Christmas Day John woke us up early so that we could come with him for the Santa run. I didn't really understand what
a Santa run was, but figured that if I went I'd get to know, It took some will power to get up but i had been promised that it would be good so I got up. Dana also intended to come but proved impossible to wake and we let him sleep.
A Santa run proved to be when Santa goes around the community wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing the kids candy. There were two Santas and they were each supposed to have an elf handing them the candy and making sure they had what they needed. However, they were one elf short so I became a stand in elf. These particular Santas did not have sleighs, nor did they walk as country side communities can be pretty spread out. These santas drove around in fire trucks so my Santa, our neighbor, and I climbed on to the back of the fire truck with our candy and got going. One Santa team went left and the other right as we drove out of the fire station and we were off. It was really fun to ride at the back of the fire truck and wave at all the people who came out of the houses to see us. When there were kids we stopped, santa talked to them, asked if they had been good, and gave them a little bag of candy, and then we drove on. The oddest part of this santa run however, was that Santa rode on a fire truck but Santa himself. The other truck was led by Santa John, who I can't think of anything but a very characteristic Santa. My Santa on the other hand had an alarmingly evil laughter at the first stop, before he adjusted it and started sounding more like a Santa. When we were driving he continually cursed and told me all kinds of gossip about the people who lived in the houses we drove past, or whom we passed. I learned exactly who had cancer, who had left his wife for another woman, who had enlarged her breasts etc. By now I have forgotten it all, but I could really feel the small town spirit. The Christmas spirit however... not sure.
After Santa and a bear we went back home to wake Dana up and open gifts before we headed of to the real Christmas celebration a few kilometers away. The Christmas lunch was very good, light Australian food, seafood and salads, combined with traditional English Christmas food: roasted veggies, several meats and gravy. It was all very tasty and I welcome the little break before the desserts, mini plum puddings (on the photo), chocolates, and a real Christmas Cake with Custard.
As most of the guests started to congregate outdoors I started to come to terms with the lack of practical use of the Christmas trees in this country as a summery Christmas allows for outdoors sports to be played. Instead of running around the house and singing about how Anders-Petter's house is burning in order to digest the food, the Australians play cricket. While the older men (and the lazier) went fishing in the pond, the younger or more energetic guests started this very odd game. At first i watched apprehensively. when Dana watches it on TV I'm always bored half to death even by the glimpses I catch from walking past. Here however it looked rather fun. In a backyard the rules are few and even cricket get some action, though it wasn't faster than that I could easily join. I was of course the most terrible cricket player ever seen, but whatever, it was fun! We all got warm and rather puffed so I guess that it fulfilled its purpose of getting the digestion going...
The following day, the boxing day, we were all done lazying around, and started to burn old leaves, branches and twigs outdoors. Well, all but Dana, who had just finished an exam and spent most of the afternoon watching the 5 day(!) cricket match. Dana's dad let me drive the tractor with a slasher on behind (traktor med gräsklipparsläp, vad det nu kallas). I had the time of my life cutting paths through the impassible grass of the fields around the garden. As there are loads of scary snakes in Australia we could not walk through the grass when it was long. Anyhow, as I was driving with John behind me yelling instructions over the sound of the tractor Dana and Betty were burning stuff. John and I joined and we all dragged branches over to the fire when Dana yelled out that there was a snake. The stupid but impressive snake slithered in to the fire and then almost immediately out again. It probably was a bit too hot. For the records I can tell you that it was a fat 1,5 meter red-belly-black-snake; they all have such illustrative names.
The Observation of the Week:
The name "boxing day" (annandag jul) does not, as I believed or hoped, have anything to do with the sport of boxing. Instead it's believed to be derived from the word "box" as people collected gifts for the poor in a box outside church, or alternatively it's after the boxes with food or gifts from their employers that servants were sent home with on this, free day.
An additional comment:
I know that everyone at home don't think that 24 degrees is cold. in fact I bet that you've had -20 something in just the last week as Grade commented. But here it's supposed to be summer so 24 degrees with a cool but not too strong wind and overcast is not super warm.
Happy New Year!