Wednesday, December 25, 2013

American Christmas Calendar: Beginning with Halloween and Thanksgiving

Enter the Americans.  We'll let the rest of the world celebrate Christmas any way they like.  After all, we mix ours up with a little bit of Hanukah music and freshly minted Kwanza traditions.  Although, surprisingly for a country based on religious freedom, we still have a problem with some parts of the world that don't celebrate at least one of these three.

Please do allow us to dictate the schedule, though. 

Bringing light to the darkness?  One can see why the early Europeans would have wanted some comfort pre-winter solstice!

Halloween is not a pagan orgy of Satan worship, debauchery and child worship.  Sorry to disappoint.  It is a prelude to The Season.  On October 31 entire neighbourhoods practice putting up decorations before the snow hits.  They are orange and black instead of red and green.  These are the warm up colours.  Parents and children parade through the neighbourhood knocking on doors and asking for candy.  Done properly - and en masse - it is the most family-oriented holiday ritual I have ever been a part of.  It's not too cold to be outside after dark yet.  Kids are happy.  Parents are happy.  Entire communities are happy.  Happy kids high on sugar spread joy.  Think of it as carolling, if it makes you feel better.
Counting up the loot post trick-or-treating in Narangba, Qld!

And the logistics of coordinating trick or treat groups while still managing to keep one person home to pass out treats (or risk having their lawn toilet-papered) begins to prepare everyone for the massive coordination efforts required at Christmas time.

Thanksgiving, too, is a misunderstood holiday.  Why WOULD we celebrate the fact that the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims out through that first horrible winter, taught them to grow native plants, to hunt and to survive when we turned around and basically wiped them off the face of the continent only a few short years later?  It's a bit like rubbing salt in the wounds, isn't it?  Talk about sore winners!

Or we could have made pumpkin pie with them!

Thanksgiving is important because it falls on the last Thursday of November.   Commandment number eleven in the American, secular Christmas code is this:  THERE SHALL BE NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THE LAST THURSDAY OF NOVEMBER.    None of this putting up the Christmas tree on November 14 because you can't wait to get started, mates.  This is as ludicrous as the Germans waiting until December 24.  Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the go ahead for Christmas madness to commence.  Although, it IS nice that the Australians don't kill anyone to do it. 

This year I started to think of Thanksgiving as a tribute to one man, to Squanto, who as legend tells it was the main intermediary between his tribe and the suffering newcomers.  Can you imagine the scene?  This new group of strange people, who have entered your land without permission or courtesy and begun to hack down trees and destroy land, are dying en masse.  They are starving before your eyes.  How easy would it have been to slaughter the rest of them and have done with?  Threat averted.  Problem solved.  How many of us would have shown the level of compassion Squanto and his people must have shown in order to overcome their (very justifiable) fear in order to treat these people as humans and offer them help?

A pirate, some Saracen knights and a zombie.  Not speaking well for ourselves!

It would be a holiday to commemorate generosity and compassion and mercy.  People all over the world could relate to it:  Tibetans, Aboriginal Australians, the Irish, any people who have been shunted aside in the name of progress and imperialism.  It could honour Ghandi, Mandela and King.  Sure, Jesus too. 

Maybe call it forgiveness instead of thanksgiving.

Aw!  Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

To make it more fun and less threatening to the old imperialist order still in charge we could have Squanto come bearing gifts to leave under the turkey and pies.

Holidays and Why We Have Them! Part One : Aussie Christmas

Argh!  The Season is coming!  The Season is coming!

It's come and gone.  It's come and gone.

And I'm still just trying to get used to it!  (And get those Christmas cards out before New Year.)

Christmas in Australia is like nowhere else in the world.  It's not just that it's summer here and that it's hot hot hot!  (I love it hot hot hot....Merry Christmas!!!)  It's also the end of the school year and the start of the next.  It's summer holidays and beaches and camping.  It's carols in the park with bbq and picnics.  It's travelling at night in the car, the kids dressed in their pyjamas, walking through the Christmas light wonderlands people around the area have put up for display.  It's Santa in the shops WITHOUT the crazy shoppers.  Although this last bit you wouldn't be able to appreciate as an Australian.  Listen, mates, women KILL each other in the USA on Black Friday to get to the Walmart's Christmas specials. 

It's reindeer antlers on cars and Santa hats on adults.  It's surfing in a Santa suit.  It's picnic on the beach and pool parties and neighbourhood gatherings.  It's light out.  (LONGEST days of the year instead of the shortest as in the Northern hemisphere.)  It's warm out.  It's get your boat out.  Bring your togs.  Other people can moan about missing snow at Christmastime.  Usually people who have never experienced it.  Snow, mates, is COLD.  And wet.  Wet and cold.  And it's DARK where it snows.  Most of the day.  Which makes it colder.  It LOOKS pretty and yes, it IS more dignified in Germany than Australia.  Grown-ups don't wear Santa hats.  Ever.  In fact, there is no Santa in Germany.

What's a Christmas without Santa?  Nice.  It's traditional.  There are Advent wreaths and Christmas markets.  Christmas is nice wherever you go. 

I  missed Santa in Germany.  The Christ Kind doesn't hand out reindeer antlers at the mall.  And the trees don't get put up until December 24.  No Christmas lights.  And certainly no bbqs.  It is COLD COLD COLD.  Drink the Gluhwein.  And sing carols around the Advents really is a nice time of year there too....Germans do Christmas's not their fault they don't have the beach or the climate for a TRUE Australian Christmas!

Of course mixing lengthening daylight hours  (which have been linked to increased mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia) with the end of school, the summer holidays AND the most celebrated secular Christian holiday of the year does take some getting used to. 

You really need to get into the Aussie spirit.  No worries, mates.  She'll be all right! 

One thing I have learned is that "no worries, mates" is harmless.  But if you hear "she'll be all right" you're probably up shit's creek without a paddle.

Christmas in Australia is like the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving combined with school summer holidays all rolled into one.  Or, for the Germans, like when the World Cup Soccer comes every four years and the entire country comes out of its shell and sits outside in the warm sunshine at the Biergartens watching the games on large screens, wearing German colours and celebrating together.    It's a time for family.  But also a time to be outside and a time to celebrate with others.  It's a time when the whole country comes together to be happy at the same time. 

Call it anything you like.  Wouldn't it be nice if there was a day the entire world felt like one family?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Linkin Park Lyrics for Ryan

Track number 7, RPM class, and I always think of Ryan.

If she WERE thinking of how she feels, might it be like this?

Ahem....are any of these guys perhaps single and into horses?!


I'm tired of being what you want me to be
Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface
Don't know what you're expecting of me
Put under the pressure of walking in your shoes
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)

I've become so numb, I can't feel you there
Become so tired, so much more aware
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you

Can't you see that you're smothering me,
Holding too tightly, afraid to lose control?
'Cause everything that you thought I would be
Has fallen apart right in front of you.
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
Every step that I take is another mistake to you.
(Caught in the undertow, just caught in the undertow)
And every second I waste is more than I can take.

I've become so numb, I can't feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.

And I know
I may end up failing too.
But I know
You were just like me with someone disappointed in you.

I've become so numb, I can't feel you there,
Become so tired, so much more aware.
I'm becoming this, all I want to do
Is be more like me and be less like you.

I've become so numb, I can't feel you there.
(I'm tired of being what you want me to be)
I've become so numb, I can't feel you there.
(I'm tired of being what you want me to be)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Joy To The World?

Sunday night at the Santa house should have been the picture of family peace and harmony.

Instead we left the almost-fourteen year old standing outside of the car.  Why have her ruin it for all of us?

But when her eleven and a half year old brother started sulking as well, I had a brief, but frightening glimpse of what this family would be like in five years, with two more in early puberty and the older two as teenagers. 

It was going to make the first few years with four kids under six look easy.

"Listen," I said to Damon.  "If we only had the kids we'd actually TRIED for we'd have ONE seven year old and a two year old."  (I realise this doesn't say much for our family planning either, but we weren't nearly as frightened of having children before we had them than we are now.)

"Let's pick one of the twins and Ian and make a break for it."


Neither of us could decide which of the twins to take.  (They are both really rotten at times but have their good points too!)

And then we remembered we really HAD wanted Andrew after all.  And he is a decent sort most of the time.

"If Ryan were from your first marriage, though," I told Damon, "she'd be going back to live with her mother."

She'll make someone an excellent daughter-in-law though.

We could really use the spare bedroom.

Did I mention she comes with a horse and several belly dance costumes?!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New Perspective on Child Marriages

Like a good western - educated liberal woman, I've always been appalled at the idea of arranged marriages and child marriages in particular.

As a hippy do-good international volunteer type, I've always heard that if you can keep a girl in school and educate her then her chances of teen pregnancy and marriage are much lower.  (Hmm....gotta work on that here in Queensland a bit, don't we?!)

So these recent commercials on sending aid money to impoverished girls so that they are able to stay in school rather than face marriage in their early teens should be right up my alley.

However, as the mother of a recalcitrant, obnoxious, ungrateful, almost-fourteen year old girl in the midst of puberty, I'd do almost anything to get her out of the house at this point.

Any takers?  We're prepared to pay a really decent bride price.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baby Words of Wisdom

Conversations like these are why we have children:

1.  Me to Andrew:   Aunt Laura and I are nine years apart just like you and Ian." 
     Andrew's reply:  "Oh.  Which one of you is older?!"

2.  Ian:  "Shit.  Fuck."  By which we are fairly sure he meant "sit in the truck."

3.  Ian:  "Fuck it."  By which we think he means "Fix it."  or   "Broken."    Why does everything a two year old says sound like "fuck."?

4.  Andrew playing police officers with Aidan and Matthew:  "I am sure the bad guys are here.  I can smell the cocaine."  Oh.  Maybe we shouldn't be letting them watch so much "Cops" on TV.  On the other hand, what better way to learn what happens when you don't get an education, do dumb things, take drugs, break the law and don't own up to your bad choices?  And for all those Queenslanders who keep wanting to know if people like that really exist in the USA, have you taken a look around our neighbourhoods here?!

5.  Ian as I slowed down in traffic the other day:  "Shit."  When I asked the kids where he had picked that  up from they all turned to Aidan.  Apparently he's been cursing in the car without me knowing it.  BUSTED by the baby! 

6.  Ian:  rat a tat a tat sound like a machine gun makes.  Aiming his Legos at me.  "Shoot Mommy.  Shoot Mommy."  At least he isn't cursing.  Or talking about smelling cocaine.