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ASPECTS OF CHRISTMAS DAY IN AUSTRALIA.
It has been remarked more than once— in fact, it has been a subject of frequent remark about tbia time of the year — that the inhabitants of the southern hemisphere spend their Christmas Day in a manner somewhat different from those who dwell north
of the Equator. There might be a mutual interchange of natural productions between us and our antipodes with considerable advantage to both sides of the world. We would willingly barter one of our best hoc winds and tons of the finest Australian dust for a good nor'-wester, fresh from the. waves of the Atlantic, and two feet deep of snow on our garden walks. How our friends at home, would like the hot winds and. the dust when they get the.ru, and what we ourselves would do with the nor'-wester and snow, are totally different questions. We are discontented mortals at home or abroad. ' Wo look before and after, and sigh for what Is not ;' and if we get what we sigh for, we will probably sigh to be as we were before. When we are choked with dust and baked with
hot winds, our minds fondly revert to the ice and snow and keen, crisp, biting winds of our early Christmas days ; while no doubt thousands ait home, in the full enjoyment of these ad van tages, look with their minds' eyes longingly at the unclouded blue sky, the warm sun, the fruits, the flowers, and the thick foliage of Christmas in Australia. They have only one idea of'^Cnrfetmas festivity in; the old country, but that one they make the most of. It is a day of family reunions, heavy eating and drinking, much mirth, and a universal exhibition of kindlineBBof feeling. It is essentially an indoors day. Big firea blaze in the kitchen, the parlour, and the drawingroom, and the nearer one can get to them the more comfortable he feels. Rich people can and do make themselves thoroughly comfortable, and a ' Happy Christmas' is not an idle; word to them. Bute the poor — the poor in the huts and hovels, the' attics and cellars, the back lanes, -where whole families are crowded into one small room ? . The less said about the happy season to them the better. For all, except the well to-do, the advantages of season are decidedly with those who live on our side of the world. Here, in Australia, each family spends its Christmas as it thinks beat. The conservative feeling that at home draws old friends and relatives together is either unknown to us, or is gradually dying out. Probably half— certainly a large proportion — of the Christmas dinners of Victoria are eaten in the open air. Country people 'come to town and eat their dinners in the parks, or up the. river, or on the beach. Townspeople go up the country, taking well- filled hampers with them, and dine on. the slopes of the Dandehong or the Dividing Range. The artist of The Sketcher has given a few sketches of Christmas' in Australia, by which it will be seen that our ideas regarding the festive period are slightly different to those of our friends who live about the 50° north latitude. On the river is one of our favourite ways of spending Christmas. On a hot wind day there is something peculiarly inviting in the idea of being upon the water. The Yarra, from the Falls to the Survey-paddock, is covered with boats, each boat representing at least one family and a few friends. To get from Melbourne to the Survey-paddock, the favourite rendezvous of Christmas revellers, involves a row against the current of several miles. The men who have to do this are not as cool when' they land as when they started. Two or three hours rowing, with the ther mometer above 100° in the sun, is bard work, but there is no doubt they feel better for it than if they bad hung about the house all day. and taken no exertion ; and if it was hard work going up, coming back with' the current in the cool of the evening makes up for it. The evening row in the moonlight on the river, with the song and laugh coming from scores of other boats, all laden with parties who have been spending a bappy Christmas somewhere on its banks, is about as pleasant an endirjg^to the day as can be well conceived. In the, next sketch a gentleman is represented an spending the dayjin a style that must excite the longingB of those who are compelled to exist in this weather upon the surface of the earth or the water. In a newspaper account that lately appeared of the jT.oprres Straits pearl fisheries, it was stated that there were about 50 boatB employed in fishing over an area of some hundreds of square. miles. The divers see Btranpe things down at the bottom of the five or ten fathoms of water to which they descend in search of shell. Like Aretbuea of old, the loud ocean divides its blue depths to them. They pass in their explorations, as she did— j ' Throuph the coral woods of the weltering floods, j -,„,,, , , Over heaps of unvalued stonop.' There appears to be a doubt as to whether the shark and the snake will make their Christmas dinner off the diver, or the diver off them ; but as the diver lived to write bis account of the interview, the reader may moke bis mind easy regarding his fate. On Christmas Day every steamer plying in our waters, and not otherwise engaged, is 'laid on' for pleasure trips round the shores of Port Phillip Bay. Our inland sea is nearly 1,000 square mileBin extent — about the size of some of the large squatting runs in the _ interior— and scattered here and there along the coast are, pleasant little sheltered nooks, where watering-places have,' by a sort of natural law, sprung up to refresh the weary souls of those who thirst for the sea. All the Bteamboata ore Jilled with passengers, and the only thing apparently ' that restrains all Melbourne from taking to the 'briny is the want of accommodation. Our artist does, not in the least exaggerate the crowded condition of a Christmas excursion steamer in the boat he ,has. selected for his sketch. They are loaded down to the ^water's, edge. Locomotion on the decks is as difficult as on the grand stand at Fleroington on a Cap day. And the Christmas dinners are eaten under circumstances of such difficulty as might justify even the most respectable people in making use of strong language., Still, there is every reason to believe that the people who make these marine excursions enjoy them. The great proof, is, that those who do it once do it again, till it becomes a settled habit. There is, a very lonely Bide to Australian life. In no other corner of,, the world are there bo many waifs and strays of different nationalities drifting aimlessly about. Within the last iive-and-twenty years our gold-fields have attracted thousands from ,e very corner of the earth to join in the search for fortune. The majority, have, .found it in one shape or another. If they haven't got i£ in.wealth sufficient to dread an income tax, they have got wives' and children that they value more, settled occu pations, and, let us hope, happy homes. Many have risen to great wealth and social distinction, who at the start had apparently nothing more in their favour than their shipmate, the lonely swagsman, who is represented by our artist as1 sharing his Christmas dinner with his dog, his only companion on the wallaby track. A square peg, this poor fellow, who could only find round holes in bis colonial experience. He might have made a good police magistrate, a member, of Parliament whose' speeches 77te./lr(/uswould,have reported in full, abankmunager that churches, wquld,have bid for to have lllled their high places. Many of bur magistrates, members, and bauk.managers, were once waifsand strays' Buoh as be, but one, by one they settled into their places, and filled the square Kble that Nature destined him for. Poor fellow, he is growing old now, and bis only ambition is to keep body andeoul together, and have enough over to feed
his dog. I never pass an old swagsman that my heart doesn't expand towards him. I have been on the wallaby track myself, I have epenfc Christmas days as lonely as his, and I can enter into the bitter feelings with which he contrasts the bright hopes of the. past with the.forlorn present. A custom is growing with our colonial youths of having an annual walking expedition about Christmas time. There are ? hundreds of young fellows in. the' Government service, the banks, merchants and lawyers' offices, who get a .week or two to themselves at this time of the year, and who spend their holidays in exploring the beauties of bur Victorian highlands. Who wouldn't wish to be young again to make one in such a party as our artist has depicted ? They. have just spent a glorious hour in climbing the sides of one of our densely-wooded range?, and are enjoying their well-earned rest, while they drink to the health of ' absent friends.'1 Better that than being shut,up in the hot stuffy rooms of a crowded city, making love to barmaids across an hotel counter, or drinking beer and playing pool all day in the billiard-room. You may be sure that when those young men go back to work they will be able to do twice as much as the lazy fellows who dawdled away their holidays about the town. ? But we are not all Christians in Victoria. We have a large infusion of a heathen race among us, who never in their youth were taught to regard the eating of roast beef and plum pudding on Christmas Day as a Bemi-religioua obligation. They were brought up to worship strange gods, to dread alien devils. They have no associations connected with the fast days and feast days of the barbarians among whom they sojourn, and would think as little of going on an empty stomach on Christmas Day as they would of gorging themselves on Good Friday. Still, even the Chinese have to keep our great holiday in a sort of a way. It is bard to work while the world about us is playing, and John, very likely with a smile of contempt at his weakness, shuts up shop, and goes in for enjoying himself in his own peculiar fashion. The Hketch of our artint shows four Chinamen rnis-Bpending their Christmas Day. The two who are smoking will soon be in the same state of glorious insensibility as their two companions who have smoked, and then it will be little matter to them how the rest of the world spends Christmas Day. What wild dreams of impossible happiness these opium-smoking heathen/ garner into their brains at every puff ! What a joyous getting' drunk ! but what a miserable getting sober they wiH repent in ! Of all the sad awakenings on Boxing Day from too much revelry the nigh (before, the saddest will be that of our Chinese frieud who has indulged in a puff too much. None may mount so high — certainly none will fall so low. M. on, N.