Monday, July 22, 2013

Oz Festivals

Certain times evoke particular memories or associations but I never really realized how local those associations are. When I started to question this, I had a major revelation. I don't understand Australia at all.

Some of you might be Australianese and might be able to help me understand (I haven't checked my statistics to see if I get any readership from wherever it is that Australia is), and some of you might know some stuff about Australia, so feel free to chime in. I'll start this from the Judaic perspective but will move into a larger context afterwards.

We just marked the 9th of Av, a 25 hour fast day commemorating the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. I always think of it as a long day which is usually hot and uncomfortable. The fast starts late in the evening and ends later then next night. As we were not even a month after the solstice, we were in the range of the longest day and latest sunset. But in Australia, it is apparently now winter, with the sun setting early. That means that their 9th of Av finishes in the 5:30 range! Their association with the 9th will be of cold weather and, I would guess, a day off from school. Our winter fast (the dawn to evening 10th of Tevet) has to be the long one for them and interrupt their summer vacation whereas here, it ends by 5:30 and is often accompanied by a wintry mix and gray, bleak skies.

Then I continued pondering the Jewish calendar. Passover, the quintessential Spring festival would be, on the other side of the world, at the beginning of the fall. All the Spring references would not make sense! And Sukkot (the Feast of Booths -- John Wilkes and Edwin) which we dread because it has us sit outside when the weather is either the too hot of late summer or too cold of the fall, would be at the beginning of Spring down under there. Don't they know they are doing it wrong? Do they shift everything to accommodate their agricultural cycle or do they live in a state of cognitive dissonance? Is that what it takes to live upside down? Channukah, the festival of lights, designed to inject some candley goodness into the darkness of the winter is a summer holiday there? No way.

From Channukah, I got to thinking -- Christmas. Now, I don't celebrate Christmas, but I can recognize it as a cultural marker with its own set of associations -- a White Christmas for example. What if Irving Berlin had lived in Sydney or Alice Springs? Would the song be "Green or Brownish Christmas"? Why would Santa be wearing that ridiculous red coat in the middle of the summer? And Rudolph's services wouldn't be so necessary because the chance of white-out conditions would be severely reduced. Next is New Year's day -- if it isn't cold, then when the millions of people jam pack their equivalent of Times Square, how do they rationalize their alcohol consumption? And Groundhog's Day must make no sense at all. That rodent comes up, tush first probably, and if he sees his shadow, they get 6 more weeks of what exactly? Why would they need a holiday to help them look forward to Autumn? How do they stay outside for the July 4th fireworks if it is winter time?

Like I said -- the place makes no sense at all.


  1. yep, we're pretty screwed up down under. we should all (jews) just move to israel. life would be so much more perfect. why did God even have to create a southern hemishpere anyway? it doesn't do anything useful.

  2. There is usefulness to the southern hemisphere in 2 ways. One is that a globe with only ne side would make an irritating sound as it spun in space, so having a southern hemisphere avoids that, and second, Australia gives us a place not to understand. What kind of a life could I lead if I had nothing to complain about?


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