What's bigger than Santa Claus coming to town?

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January 1st 2011
Published: January 10th 2011
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Oprah, Queen of Australia, out-sparkles Christmas in Sydney but nothing can out shine the Sydney Harbour on New Years Eve!

It's that time of year again apparently, although my body is totally confused by the idea of tinsel and turkey when the sun is shining and I'm wearing shorts.

While the UK is suitably carpeted in a blanket of the picturesque white stuff and everyone is snuggling up to wood fires and steaming mugs of mulled wine I'm licking the melted chocolate out of my advent calendar and looking forward to a cold beer on the roof terrace of the nearest pub!

December 2010: my second Christmas away from home, my second Christmas of plus thirty degree heat and glorious sunshine, my least Christmassy Christmas in living memory. That's right Australia, it felt more festive in the middle of the Sahara desert in muslim/animist dominated Timbuctu than it has in the commercial centre of Sydney! Come on now you Aussies, we taught you cricket, rugby and gawd knows what else and you managed to do all of them better than us Poms with a couple of years practice, but give you a few baubles and some fairy lights and you just haven't got a clue! I get that you have the weather against you, and it was kind of cute to see soap foam snowflakes at Circular Quay in an attempt to recreate a winter wonderland, but this year apart from the big day itself, Christmas passed me by completely. The build up to Oprah visiting Australia was bigger than the welcome put on for Santa.

Oh my was there a build up to Oprah's visit. The media thought all their Christmases had come at once. Oprah fever gripped the country as paparazzi and screeching, middle aged women lined the streets for a glimpse of the new Queen of Australia zooming past in her black tinted cavalcade. I'll admit even I was swept up in the euphoria and dragged myself and a stinking hangover out of bed to sit in the kitchen for a perfect papping view of Oprah walking past on the Harbour Bridge....only to find the diva had gone and climbed from the other end of the bridge and all I saw was her convoy of cars sweeping her back down the road and through the security gates of Bridge Climb HQ. Oprah, I feel cheated!

But back to Christmas. Without 17 hours of darkness the tinsel and coloured lights just don't sparkle with that magical brilliance I am accustomed to. Who wants to wrap themselves around a steaming cup of mulled wine when sweat is dribbling down your t-shirt clad back? Carols don't have the same ring to them when your breath isn't coming out in clouds of steam on the frosty air. And who in their right mind would think to have a pirate themed Christmas work party in the northern hemisphere?! I am definitely of the opinion that Christmas is a winter festival, sunshine and shorts just confuse matters too much for my poor brain. I'm walking around town, getting on with my little life down under, enjoying a year round summer, (even if that summer has been distinctly British feeling), when suddenly I'll turn a corner and walk into a 30 foot tree decorated with flashing lights, or I'll be waiting at the bus stop and the sound of carols will drift out of a nearby shop on the breeze. Every time this happened during the entire month of December I did a double take. It's nice not to be
Christmas Banners...Christmas Banners...Christmas Banners...

...come on Sydney, is that the best you can do?!
bombarded with decorations and adverts since August, but very confusing to be surprised every time you are confronted with anything vaguely festive. Even with an advent calendar flown in by my lovely mummy I forgot that it was my favourite day of the year...Christmas Eve. Then to add insult I had to work and they didn't even have any Christmas songs on the sound system! At least I got to the beach before work on Christmas Eve, (my first proper visit since I arrived in Sydney 3 months ago!!) so I did a fairly typical Pommie down under activity for Christmas!

Despite all the dissapointment of the festive build up, Christmas Day itself was awesome. Three of us British orphans were taken in by the Vellas for the day and treated to a wonderful family Christmas. No wonder we hadn't seen Jeff much in the past couple of weeks, when we got to his house we were overwhelmed by the spread of homemade food and drinks on offer. He had been busy making absolutely everything from scratch: from spiced nuts for nibbles with Old Rosie cider when we arrived (finally good cider in Oz!!), to homemade ginger beer, Baileys and Tia Maria after dinner. The kitchen counter was ready to collapse under a mountain of fruit cakes and chocolate deserts, homemade sweets and an incredible star biscuit tree centerpiece. For lunch we pigged out on curried prawns, fat fresh king prawns the size of my hand, thai coconut battered prawns, octopus straight off the barbie and piles of salad. Not once did I miss turkey with all the trimmings! Almost as exciting as all the food was the fact that despite my being 12,000 miles from home and there being young children present, I still vied for first position when it came to number of parcels under the tree!! Thank you so much to all you lovely people who sent me beautiful gifts for Christmas. I'm not so sure Mama Vella thanks you, I think she's had enough of being my personal post sorter for one year!

Christmas quickly slipped by for another year. I couldn't believe how busy work was on Boxing Day. Back home everyone would still be in a turkey coma and hiding in front of the TV until the turkey curry was ready or burning off the excess fighting their way through the sales. No one would even consider eating a massive burger on boxing day...unless they were in Australia it seems! I kind of missed not being part of the masses hibernating, who wants to work 14 hour days between Christmas and New Years? Ahh well, the joys of the life of a working 'holiday' visa holder!

There was one night I was not going to work though. If I'm going to live in the New Years capital of the world for the summer then I'll damn well be there in the thick of it for New Years, not serving burgers to sad bastards with no imagination to be somewhere more exciting! Luckily my manager agreed to let me go at 3pm so I pushed through the crowds down at Circular Quay and made it back to my house in time to crack open a bottle of sparkling wine and lay out some nibbles for Nat and Jeff. We all sat in my back garden getting merry and watching the overhead acrobatics planes leaving messages in the sky above us. At 8:45 we put down our glasses and sauntered two minutes down the road to the harbour front and marvelled at the fact we had discovered a spot that was relatively empty of crowds and totally unrestricted for access and perfect views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge! The family fireworks were amazing, stuff the fact it wasn't even midnight I was in awe of the light display in front of me, especially when the curtain of fireworks sparkled and tumbled down off the bridge in a waterfall. Then it was back to mine, this time to sit on the front porch and watch the crowds over at the Opera House, before repeating the whole spectacular again at midnight. There are 6 fireworks barges set up along the harbour and from our fantastic vantage point we could see two of them to the east and two to the west, as well as the Harbour Bridge so we got the amazing mirror effect of them all going off in synchrony. The whole night was truly amazing, especially for someone who is usually really bah humbug and hates New Years Eve!

Happy New Year everyone and I look forward to reporting on all the adventures I have in 2011!

Additional photos below
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Snow and Oprah...Snow and Oprah...
Snow and Oprah...

...miracles happening all over Australia!

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