Ireland has bequeathed much to Australia, from the bloodlines of legends such as Ned Kelly, Thomas Keneally and Paul Keating, to cutting those with overinflated egos down to size (aka the tall poppy syndrome), to much of your humour.
But one of the greatest aspects of Irish life – the utter adoration of Christmas – has failed to ever find serious purchase down under.
My first encounter of the great oddness of Christmas in Australia was in Perth in 1992 when I saw schoolchildren wearing synthetic red outfits singing hymns in 30 degree heat.
But at least they were trying. Most people don’t make any effort to get into the spirit of the season.
In Ireland we start celebrating Christmas as soon as Halloween is over, and it doesn’t end until 2 January.
We spend two months meeting people, socialising and properly analysing the year that’s ending and previewing the one to come.
It’s psychologically more beneficial than just going for a swim.
Halloween emerged from Samhain, a pagan Irish festival. They ate, drank and celebrated what they had because the nights were drawing in and there was no guarantee the sun would ever come back as strong as it was just weeks earlier.
People in Australia just don’t love Christmas.
Longtime Sydney mayor Clover Moore was the Christmas Scrooge in 2004 with her “seasons greetings” banners, which John Howard rightly called “political correctness from central casting”. Stung by the criticism, she has been pro-Christmas ever since, and wants Sydney to be a “Christmas destination”. It hasn’t made any discernible difference.
Australians do, generally, send Christmas cards, but they very often write Xmas, which I cannot abide.
The Christian Brothers beat that hatred into me so hard it still gives me shivers when I read it.
And when you complain about someone writing the dreaded word, the Xmas-writer will invariably get all defensive and say the X part comes from the Greek word for Christ.
So either Australia has the world’s highest number of Greek scholars or, just possibly, the highest number of people too lazy to write Christmas.