My impression of Christmas this year is that it's still a few months away. December has felt much more like September or October to me, so Christmas snuck up on me and then went as quickly as it came. To be honest, I felt like I was just visiting the family for a meal rather than actually celebrating Christmas. This year, it lost whatever shreds of "specialness" it had left, especially because our schedule was rather rushed. At the end, it was a nice day but nothing more. I am glad that the weather was cooler this year, though when I took the train back to Brisbane, I evidently got to Roma Street Station just after a storm struck the city as it was rather uncomfortably humid when I made my way from the station down George and Queen Streets to the ferry terminal. The lack of traffic in the city was rather nice though, especially because I could just dawdle across a couple of streets against the lights and not worry about getting run down by anything.
One thing that struck me as rather weird was how packed the train from the Gold Coast to Brisbane was. From Helensville (the third Gold Coast station) to South Bank (the first Brisbane station, almost an hour away), there were even a few people standing in my carriage. That also struck me as quite un-Christmasy. I was expecting there to be very few people utilising the train and thought I may end up with a carriage to myself. Instead, the opposite happened: the only time I've seen more people on a Gold Coast train has been when I've been travelling to or from sporting events. And to think that beforehand, I was rather surprised the trains and ferries were running at all on Christmas! Hell, I remember the days back in New Zealand when shops didn't even open on Sundays!
I'm also really pissed off about the whole Boxing Day test thing. For me, it's one of the most important Christmas traditions. Christmas has always been a very secular holiday to me, so I've never had any special religious ceremonies or traditions attached to the day. To me, the 'religion' of Christmas might as well be cricket, both backyard cricket on Christmas afternoon (which didn't happen this year, bah!) and the Boxing Day test. One of my fondest Christmas memories is of going to the third day of the test with my father at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, even if New Zealand was merely playing Zimbabwe. But of course, this year's test was already a dead rubber due to England losing the first three of the five matches in the series, and today, they might as well have not bothered turning up. I can't believe that despite a frigging rain delay, they still managed to get completely dismissed and Australia got some time in to begin their first innings today. That is what I call pathetic. Go home, you useless bloody Poms, and don't come back until you've figured out how to actually play competitively against Australia. I cannot believe this is the same country that won back the Ashes last year.
Also, I was going to make a comment above in brackets after my comment regarding Christmas being rather secular to me, but it got too longwinded. It seems that every year, I encounter a debate online (I don't think I've ever actually encountered it offline) over "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays". It really pisses me off, as I don't see what the hell is so religious about "Merry Christmas" or why it's worse than wishing someone a pleasant Insert Name Of Any Other Public Holiday Here. It's not as if the festivities were originally Christian anyway. I've always enjoyed Christmas as a magical time of year full of goodwill, unity, and time with those you cherish, not as a religious celebration that privileges Christianity. Of course, I can't help but laugh at the use of "Happy Holidays" by those trying to be tactful and avoid "Merry Christmas". Firstly, it strikes me as rather redundant or at least ambiguous, as it sounds like what you might wish someone going to Europe for a fortnight. "Have happy holidays, see you when you get back!" Secondly, for all the posturing that it's preferable to Christmas, 'holiday' comes from 'holy day' and isn't exactly doing much better! Maybe "Happy Holidays" sounds more inclusive of other religions, but it doesn't exactly include the holy day-less atheists. At the end of the day, Christmas is the name of the public holiday, and wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" is no more discriminatory or exclusive than wishing someone a "Happy New Year". And if people object to the very name of Christmas for the public holiday, I'd just like to point out that meanings of words evolve, and from my perspective, the word 'Christmas' has acquired a more broad and inclusive meaning. Anyway, now I'm waffling, so I'll end with a final comment that I'm amused most of the debate surrounding Christmas seems to come from the US, a country far more religious - especially far more Christian - than either of my own countries. Most of my family aren't concerned with religion and probably don't even give it any thought with regards to Christmas.
I guess I actually had more to say than I realised. Well, that's about it for today, except to say that I feel bad for not doing my annual entry on the 24th in memory of the victims of the Tangiwai disaster on 24 December 1953 (which my grandfather survived and two uncles did not) and other New Zealand railway disasters, such as the 1943 Hyde disaster in which I lost four relatives. I also lost a relative in a dreadful railway accident in the UK in 1952, so I guess that given this unpleasant family history with trains, it's a little perplexing why I'm a railfan. I guess I was born late enough to not have my attitudes towards rail transport adversely affected by the disasters, but early enough to still be strongly emotionally affected by the memory of them. To this day, my grandfather has not ridden a train since Tangiwai. Anyway, although it's a couple of days late, there's my annual thoughts and reflections on the disaster. RIP Douglas and John.