Friday, 10 July 2015

Christmas in winter at last

These Christmas trees are real and from what I can work out they were installed on Pitt Street Mall at the beginning of this week and they'll only be there for the rest of the week. There are rows and rows of them organised in a grid in the mall by Westfield as part of its retail promotions but actually it reminds me - for sheer commonsense - of the Cool Yule promotion the City of Sydney is holding in Darling Harbour. There, the council has installed a skating rink as well as a snow-filled play pit for kids (further north under the Pyrmont Bridge).

Australia's summer Christmas has always been something of a perverse point of pride - I remember Christmas card designs from my youth showing Santa on a surfboard, for example - but this new concession to the realities of cold weather is also welcome and in my mind it is something to celebrate. It bespeaks a practical nature, and suggests a reasonable response to what can otherwise be a pretty depressing season in Sydney where the wind tends to howl with chilly abandon through the streets, flanked as they mostly are with tall buildings that funnel the air at high velocities.

I wonder though whether the shopping centre operator and the city council worked in tandem. Certainly, the council's effort is more substantial - that rink and that play pen have been in operation for weeks already, as far as I can recall - but the corporate operator has also done well to spruce up (pun intended!) the shopping strip with these pines.

There's something fresh and crisp about pine trees, which are known to contain a fragrant sap that yields a strong scent. So the rows of pine trees in the mall I think have the effect of a kind of tonic for people who are busy with work or other chores in the city centre. The cherry-red planter boxes furthermore generate a nice Christmasy contrast against the green needles of the pine trees.

Cold weather can be pretty miserable. When I lived in Japan for all those years it was a lot colder than it is in winter here, of course. But I didn't like it even though the winter days in Tokyo are mostly sunny and bright. There's not much to celebrate about wintry mornings when you have to pick your way carefully among dirty drifts of snow on the wet pavement. Frankly, as in the case of daylight saving, it makes a lot more sense to have Christmas in summer when you can relax for a few weeks and maybe spend a bit of time in the warm sun on the beach recharging your batteries. I think that's the idea with the Christmas trees in the mall, too: a bit of off-season cheer for tired commuters.

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