Rituparna Goswami Pande
The realisation that "We would be in Australia for Christmas", made me breeze through the last few months to the run up to my impending visit to the land Down Under. And it has been a decade now to that thought that had brought so much joy adding to the festive spirit those years ago. I was dizzy with anticipation with the bubble of expectation that was building up inside me. The streets would vibrate with Christmas Carols, there might not be enough space for Christmas revellers soaking in the yuletide spirit as they would jostle for space dancing and jiving in joy.
However, it was nothing like I had expected. in fact it was the stark opposite of it. There was no music on the streets, whatever carol singing might have been must have been inside closed doors or high walls of the church. The streets were empty except for us as we had decided to take a drive around town to feel the energy during Christmas. But yes we did get a glimpse of the beautifully lit up homes of the quaint town of Wollongong, in New South Wales but whatever revelry was there were confined to the homes as Christmas was a closed private affair to the Aussies.
The most popular event of Christmas season is the carol singing by candlelight. And we were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of Australian hospitality and marvelled at how they decorated their homes with ferns, palm leaves and evergreens along with the eleclectic hues of flowers that bloom in summer called Christmas bush and Christmas bell flower. Interestingly, in Australia the seasons are opposite to Americans therefore when the Americans celebrate a white Christmas in winter Down Under, Austrialians celebrate Christmas in Summer. A few days prior to Christmas people throng the malls to finish off with the last minute shopping in the beautiful swanky malls which are decorated beautifully from corner to corner ushering the Christmas spirit. The next day is Boxing Day as on this day the people open their gift boxes which they exchange during Christmas. Unlike in our country when every few days there is a festival or a holiday, the Australians are not used to that many holidays and therefore Christmas is a time for taking a break from months of hard work and a busy schedule.
But it was our private celebration of a Christmas lunch in the beautiful backdrop of the Kiama beach that has stayed with me all over the years. A couple of hours through the beautiful landscape of Wollongong brought us to a little heaven tucked away along the beach with the gleaming blue waters of the Pacific called Kiama. We were totally blown away by the in your face beauty of the place and the show stoppers of a few Blow holes. In fact they are the largest in the world. It is a popular tourist hot spot since the last
100 years attracting thousands of people every year. It is estimated that about 900,000 people visit the blow hole every year.
I was awestruck with the view of plumes of water shooting into the sky. It is a phenomenon that usually takes place when the seas are running from the Southeast. If you are standing close enough you might also get drenched by the shooting waves. But it is dangerous to go near those blowholes and proper viewing stages are constructed with railings for tourists to view the spectacle.
I had never seen such a scene ever in my life and am forever indebted to my Uncle and Aunt to have given me the privilege of taking us to this natural wonder. There were few other families that Christmas who had come over to Kiama Beach for a private picnic. After a barbeque lunch and Aunt's delectable pavlova we drove back home with the lighthouse of Kiama forever indebted in our hearts. That Christmas in Kiama has never met a match yet.
Back home Christmas time is a festive time indeed. Transcending religions Guwahatians come together to celebrate the season in their own special ways. Christmas stars find their ways into our homes and so does the Christmas trees that are readily available in the markets these days. Guwahatians know how to make merry as they never shy away from celebrations – be it Durga puja, Bihu, Eid or the birth of Jesus. Guwahatians throng churches to attend the midnight mass don Christmas Eve and party away the night in the numerous clubs and even at private homes. The city wears a festive spirit with our malls and markets going all out in terms of decorations. Restaurants and Night clubs organize musical nights with live performances spoiling us with multiple choices.
I love being in my city during Christmas just as like any other festival, call it my ardent love for the city or a staunch Guwahatian but I can't seem to leave my city during festivals. And this year would be no different. May your Christmas be just as enriching and enticing as the yuletide spirit and wishing you all a jolly holidays to you and yours!