The month of December in Australia not only brings the calendar year to a conclusion but brings expectations, memories and events to look forward to.
Summer is in full swing, the beaches and the coast start to fill with students who have completed the year’s study, the tourists stream in and the ‘bushies’ pack the dusty bags and head for the cooler shores when the harvest is done. For most Australians December is also a time to hit the shops and prepare for the Christian festival of Christmas. The 25th of December is a day when all of the country regardless of their God or their faith takes time out for family, sharing and giving.
Australia is a secular country, and that simple fact contributes strongly to our sense of tolerance and our sense of togetherness, despite the vast landmass on which a mere 20 million souls inhabit.
The multicultural face of Australia sometimes is used as a point of difference, a reason to remain discrete and insular when really it is a point of familiarity. Different cultures are to be celebrated, and Australians find this easier to take on board than most, after all we already have our intrinsic polarity of Australian Rules, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer. It doesn’t matter whether you are Greek, Italian, Polynesian or Irish; football divides the country more than a hundred deities!
“I’ll see you on the radio. Tune into the ABC for the iconic coverage of our summer sport… Even if you aren’t a big cricket fan, the broadcast is something worth savouring, something very Australian, no matter what your ancestry.”
Thankfully grand final season is behind us in the twelfth month (A League Soccer excepted) and bragging rights distributed until next October (the Cats and the Storm will holiday more relaxed than most).
Fortunately cricket is a summer game embraced by all those who have various football gods. December in the cricket world means the Boxing Day Test. The Melbourne Cricket Ground swells to bursting on the 26th as we settle in front of the telly for a day of recovery and sloth.
We are a ‘new’ country, just a couple of hundred years old – without a long and rich history but also without much of the baggage of Europe or the established cultures of Asia. The newness of Australia provides an environment for a melting pot of societies to live together, sharing their various foods, beliefs and histories.
Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay and other cuisines can be found in just about every suburb, and our palates are better off for the migration. What were originally Anglo-Saxon recreations like tennis and golf and cricket and the footy codes, are now played by the Katichs and the Chee Quees and the Stosurs and Vidukas and Ioanes… it goes on. Our nation is enriched by the participation of all our varieties in all of our varieties.
Flip Side of Christmas
Having spent Christmas in Pakistan I have seen another side of the holiday which I have always taken for granted. Pakistan is 97 per cent Muslim, 2 per cent Hindu and the rest is made up of Buddhists. It is enshrined in the Pakistan constitution (a sectarian one in which religion and state are bound together) that all religions are to be treated equally, i.e. everyone gets a holiday on 25 December!
I reckon Pakistan has more public holidays than Australia, so we certainly have that in common with the Islamic republic! Pakistanis know what Christmas is about, not many Australians would know what Eid (there’s two Eids, confirming my previous point about holidays.)
December: cricket on the radio, the beach, harvest, the holidays, a variegation of people enjoying the fruits of the year just gone and of our very lucky country.
As for Christmas shopping, go for something hassle-free this season, and buy your friends, family and colleagues a Gift of Vision. Simply go online: www. givingsight.org/giftofvision and order. For AUD$30 your Christmas gift will give twice – the person you give it to will know you have thought of them and five people in a developing community could receive an eye exam and pair of glasses.
Everyone have some wonderful holidays. I’ll see you on the radio. Tune into the ABC for the iconic coverage of our summer sport… Even if you aren’t a big cricket fan, the broadcast is something worth savouring, something very Australian, no matter what your ancestry.