On Sunday, 3rd April 2011, Daylight Saving Time ended in Sydney. Winter now stands at our door, drumming her icy fingers, a tad impatient. Soon she will crawl under my skin and make herself at home, creeping into my bones for a weary four months, stomping all over my warm memories of summer, this uninvited guest. The skin creams, the fluffy slippers and the cosy doonas will do nothing to keep her at bay. My mood is as black as the winter coat I’m forced to wear.
Give me Bombay winters any day. Lasting a scant two months from December to Jan (India is in the northern hemisphere), it was, literally, time for a cool change. A nip in the air was a welcome relief from the constant humidity. On some days, we could even wear our sweaters – hand-knitted by some doting aunt, no doubt!
For me, the best part was that winter would kick off with my birthday on December 1st, and then roll into the festivities that Christmas and the New Year brought – what’s not to love? A time for parties and presents, friends and family...
My childhood Christmas memories included:
* Ten luxurious days of school holidays stretching from before Christmas to just after the new year began, perfect for enjoying the festive season.
* Building a crib in the neighbourhood – old newspapers splattered with mud to make mountains, wheat germinating as grass that the sheep statues grazed on, statues of the Holy Family and all the wise men, shepherds, cows and camels – not forgetting the angel and star above the manger.
* Making Christmas sweets – milk cream had to be milky white; not caramelly brown, marzipan was shaped into fruit (my favourite were the strawberries rolled in red sugar) with cloves as the stalks, kul kuls with their sugary coats, melt-in-your-mouth nankaties with a sprig of holly painted on the top...
* The postman delivering Christmas cards from relatives and friends in every corner of the globe (at that time England seemed verrrry far away). Images of a jolly snowman, Santa on his sleigh, carol singers huddled up in the snow, all making me dream of a white Christmas that I have yet to see.
* Everyone from abroad coming back home for Christmas – with their suitcases full of imported goodies – 2-in-1 tape recorders, VCRs, Toberlone chocolates, Cutex nail polish, polyester clothes for the entire family – only to be hounded at the airport by the Indian Customs for baksheesh!
* Going for midnight mass on 24th December on the church grounds. The mercury would dip to ten degrees, giving me a once-a-year opportunity to wear that pair of stockings Uncle Ossie had sent from Canada. A Christmas party after mass party at Nana Violet’s house (yes, even the kids got to stay up till 2am), and then coming home to find that clever Santa had left Jason and me something special on the fan above my bed!
* Mum and Dad going to the Christmas dance at the Bandra Gym on 25th December. Dad looking spiffy, the camphor ball smell of his suit (only worn for weddings and X’mas dances) masked by the heady scent of his Old Spice aftershave. Mum glamming up before my eyes, as she put on her make-up, jewellery, high heels and a new dress that always made me gasp in awe.
What do you LOVE/HATE about winter? Any childhood memories spring to mind?