These days the holidays take us by surprise, especially since we’re far removed from the familiar run-up that begins with Halloween and takes us through Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas all the way to New Year’s. We’ve been programmed by years of living at 40 degrees north latitude to start anticipating the season when the sky becomes crystalline blue and the days get shorter and the first frost of late September turns the leaves persimmon and apricot and honey. When we lived in Pittsburgh the advent of autumn triggered the nesting instinct and a chilly day might find a pot of chowder simmering on the stove, maybe a fire in the chimenea to gather around at dusk, hands warmed by mugs of hot mulled cider. Meals were planned around roasted root vegetables, chestnuts and freshly baked bread. The holidays were synonymous with snow and sweaters and warm wool socks and the oven getting a serious workout.
This is our fourth holiday season in warm weather, our second in the upside down world of the Southern Hemisphere. You’d think we’d be used to it by now, but old habits die hard and we’re still surprised when we see Christmas trees and red-suited Santas while we’re wearing shorts and sandals.
At the shops we ooh and ahh over the peaches and berries and asparagus but my instincts are to look for butternut squash and parsnips and clementines. Those are all available — in fact I can’t think of a thing that isn’t available here in Sydney — but I have a hard time associating roasted root vegetables with summer heat. More often than not we go for the peaches and berries, and last year in New Zealand we succumbed to a months-long indulgence in corn on the cob, the first we’d had in years.
Still, we aren’t completely adjusted to a summery Christmas and Hanukkah season and standing over a hot stove for an hour frying up the latkes isn’t much fun in the heat but we’re getting over it.
Jack and I took the bus to central Sydney to save our legs for touring and the four of us started at the New South Wales State Library. It’s a beautiful space and busy, which made my librarian sister happy.
Nancy and I took a few minutes to make poppies to add to the ANZAC memorial installation while the men waited patiently.
It was after we walked to the pedestrian mall and joined the holiday shopping crowd and heard the Salvation Army band that it hit me. It’s Christmas!
Here’s Jack starting on his Christmas list.