In Christmas celebration depictions and decorations seen around the world, you can expect to see a fat Santa Claus riding in his sleigh with reindeer, traveling atop the clouds, above snowy, wintry towns around the globe. But what you rarely see, unless you are in the Southern hemisphere in December, is Santa wearing shorts, sunglasses, a “Santa” hat, standing on a surfboard in the ocean waves or standing by a barbeque grill. This is the normal picture I see when I am in Australia during Christmas time. In the beginning, it was a bit strange for me given that I never knew a warm December or summery Christmas. But to be fair, it’s not like white Christmas is a norm in San Francisco where I grew up, or really anywhere in California or on the west coast of the United States. It’s normal in the Northeast, in Boston and New York where I’ve lived and do live now. But I didn’t grow up with that, so I never “missed” something I never had. In fact, I embrace summer Christmases. I love that when everyone else in New York or on the east coast is complaining on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter about how cold or icy it is that I can chuckle a little because I get to soak up anywhere from 70-100 F heat in Australia (or last year, in South Africa). I get to bask in the glow of the Australian Southern hemisphere sun, only to grumble a little that in a couple weeks, I will return to that negative-zero temperature, wind chill, and snow, grounds that will be covered in ice, and streets that will be slushy with snow semi-melted, but not quite. I mumble and groan while thinking about the short daylight hours we have and the early darkness that descends across New York city around 4-4:30pm. Short daylight hours – the absolute worst.
It’s funny to me that others who have never experienced a summer Christmas would immediately reject it. It reeks of ignorance and small-mindedness. I’ve had many a colleague across companies I’ve worked at say it’s weird, that they wouldn’t like it, that it’s not “normal.” But then, what is “normal” to you is different from “normal” to me or to Chris or to anyone depending on where in the world they grew up. It’s a common theme that comes up no matter what the question or situation regardless of whether it’s in a work or social environment. For whatever reason, people seem to reject what they are not accustomed to regardless of how much background information they have on it. And… well, from my perspective, that’s kind of their loss. California doesn’t experience snow period unless you are on the border of California-Nevada during the winter time; is that “abnormal” or “wrong”? I was used to 40-50-degree F winters in San Francisco – is that “bad”? Or then I have a friend who grew up and now resides in Arizona, so all she knows is an 80-degree F Christmas, which she deems as “mild” weather in terms of warmth. Is she a weirdo then?
The older I get, it seems the less patient I am becoming with ignorance and lack of openness to what is new. I am less inclined to hold my tongue and more likely to ask deeper questions, which could result in discomfort for those around me. If anything, when we learn about new things, we should be pressed to ask more questions and explore it rather than to outright reject it. Otherwise, how do we ever grow and evolve?