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HomemitwocentsLook Out, Here Comes Christmas

Look Out, Here Comes Christmas

Christmas is a time for retail, a time for return, a time for redemption no matter what your beliefs or travel plans.

Nowadays the festive season is less likely to dawdle up quietly and brush a shoulder for notice than it is to come rushing from a middle distance screaming for attention, lest it run right over you.

I’m always keen for a public holiday, and a festival guilds the mistletoe nicely. But now that Christmas has spread its influence beyond the churches and halls of religious ceremony and into the great mansions of retail, the ‘middle distance’ has almost become the middle of the year. Why wait for late December if you can get a bargain months earlier at Christmas in July?

The malls have been piping carols, propping tinsel, inflating reindeer and offering Yuletide specials since September. Pudgy gents with cotton wool beards and Sydney Swans colour schemes are spied on the streets in October, employment opportunities for Santas have never been better. Christmas is a festival after all so why not stretch the merriment a little… before long we will be able to progress straight from Easter sales to Boxing Day bargains without bothering with the winter lay-buys. Has Christmas become another marketing opportunity akin to parent’s days or Valentines… or are there still real causes to celebrate no matter what your religious persuasion or non?

… before long we will be able to progress straight from Easter sales to Boxing Day bargains without bothering with the winter lay-buys

Expectation and Anxiety

One of the basic tenets of the Christian day is for people to be generous, to give to friends, family and originally, to those less well off. Much as the Islamic days of Eid reflect: ‘it is better to give than receive’ is a common Christian idiom.

Christmas is a time to be near our loved ones, this so often means travel, be it across a state line or an ocean. The suburban commute indicates a close familiarity with the visitors. Traversing a continent or ocean may unite families that rarely meet.

I was waiting for such a body at the international airport in Sydney recently and got to see the variety of passengers landing in our faraway land, and those who were there to meet them.

The arrival gate was a bobbing sea of family and friends. The striking feature of both greetees or greetors was the expectation and anxiety that was so clear in their body language and on the faces.

There were shiny coloured balloons like overgrown Christmas tree baubles sprayed with welcome messages in various languages, floating like multiple suns above a tree line as if to get the first glimpse of a long departed or perhaps never sighted relative. Young men dressed like boys with their caps on backwards trying to keep the fluorescent lights off their napes ran to girlfriends and mum.

Sensitive new age young men embracing in a sensitive new age manner while their girlfriends looked on waiting for their own embrace. Stubbly, wizened grandfathers hung back in moral support while grandmothers strained and peered and clasped their handkerchiefs to their breasts. Sisters strained across legal steel barriers separated by a few precious feet which had been a diminishing few thousand miles not so long before. A fence of a few centimetres width but a gulf of emotional separation which
was about to conclude.

Waiting, arms folded pensively and then unfolded only to return along the crease line. Eyebrows raised and tip toes tipped, Nowadays the festive season is less likely to dawdle up quietly and brush a shoulder for notice than it is to come rushing from a middle distance screaming for attention, lest it run right over you.

I’m always keen for a public holiday, and a festival guilds the mistletoe nicely. But now that Christmas has spread its influence beyond the churches and halls of religious ceremony and into the great mansions of retail, the ‘middle distance’ has almost become the middle of the year. Why wait for late December if you can get a bargain months earlier at Christmas in July?

The malls have been piping carols, propping tinsel, inflating reindeer and offering Yuletide specials since September. Pudgy gents with cotton wool beards and Sydney Swans colour schemes are spied on the streets in October, employment opportunities for Santas have never been better. Christmas is a festival after all so why not stretch the merriment a little… before long we will be able to progress straight from Easter sales to Boxing Day bargains without bothering with the winter lay-buys. Has Christmas become another marketing opportunity akin to parent’s days or Valentines… or are there still real causes to celebrate no matter what your religious persuasion or non?

Expectation and AnxietyOne of the basic tenets of the Christian day is for people to be generous, to give to friends, family and originally, to those less well off. Much as the Islamic days of Eid reflect: ‘it is better to give than receive’ is a common Christian idiom.

Christmas is a time to be near our loved ones, this so often means travel, be it across a state line or an ocean. The suburban commute indicates a close familiarity with the visitors. Traversing a continent or ocean may unite families that rarely meet.

I was waiting for such a body at the international airport in Sydney recently and got to see the variety of passengers landing in our faraway land, and those who were there to meet them.

The arrival gate was a bobbing sea of family and friends. The striking feature of both greetees or greetors was the expectation and anxiety that was so clear in their body language and on the faces.

There were shiny coloured balloons like overgrown Christmas tree baubles sprayed with welcome messages in various languages, floating like multiple suns above a tree line as if to get the first glimpse of a long departed or perhaps never sighted relative. Young men dressed like boys with their caps on backwards trying to keep the fluorescent lights off their napes ran to girlfriends and mum.

Sensitive new age young men embracing in a sensitive new age manner while their girlfriends looked on waiting for their own embrace. Stubbly, wizened grandfathers hung back in moral support while grandmothers strained and peered and clasped their handkerchiefs to their breasts. Sisters strained across legal steel barriers separated by a few precious feet which had been a diminishing few thousand miles not so long before. A fence of a few centimetres width but a gulf of emotional separation which was about to conclude.

Waiting, arms folded pensively and then unfolded only to return along the crease line. Eyebrows raised and tip toes tipped, who will walk around the corner and when? “That’s her now!!! Oh. Oh no, it’s not!, a bit shorter maybe and a few more kilos perhaps but just for a moment I thought… uugh, how long can it take to get bags off an aeroplane???”

Hopes and heart rates raised and ebbed but like the tide, the emergence of your loved one was guaranteed, the time of emergence was not.

The high anxiety in the air was amplified by sniffer Corgis pointing an accusing nostril at innocent ankles as they searched for illegal drugs, a stray banana or a monarch perhaps.

Mothers carrying babies in matching outfits (possibly Christmas presents) shared space with well-groomed suit carriers, immaculate after 20 hours in the air, comfortable up the sharp end of the vessel no doubt but nonetheless still scanning the crowd for their kin.

Families, home for the holidays, home for a festival. A festival that has an origin in the sacrifice of a prophet but now represents the pilgrimage of families across the planet, or across a suburb.

Some trudge down the ramp, doubtless tired, but with no expectation or anxiety on their faces. Maybe it is a lonely arrival, as the straining crowd are not for them – there is no hurry for the taxi driver, but maybe he will have a kind word and deliver them to their kin. Maybe this Christmas is not a time for joy as the plane has taken them away from their family and friends.

Some folks almost jog, pushing their load in front as if, having carted it across an ocean, they are in a hurry to overtake it. Women display their famous multi-skilling talents by pushing with one hand, holding children with the other and looking frantically at obtuse angles for their loved ones.

Athletes in ‘skins’ and shorts and tattoos carry boards and sticks and gear bags, maybe they are returning home for Christmas or perhaps they are tourists planning a foreign yuletide in the southern hemisphere. The only white in their Christmas will be on the burning sands of Australia’s coastline, away from their families and overcoats.

Christmas, a time for retail, a time for return, a time for redemption no matter what your beliefs or travel plans… and it arrives just before the Boxing Day Test!