Dec 22, 2017: Upside-down Season

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Happy Summer Solstice everyone… except, of course, our readers in the Northern Hemisphere who are celebrating their Winter Solstice today.

Winter Solstice seems like more of a reason to celebrate. It is the shortest day and the darkest time of the year. After the Winter Solstice the days start to get longer and there’s warmth and light ahead. As you probably know, the whole celebration of Christmas is built on a pagan ritual of sun worship. Three days after the shortest day of the year (when the sun is lowest in the sky) it starts to rise again and a new year is born. For ancient people huddling through a European winter, this was a very significant time of the year and a great cause for celebration.

Here in Australia though, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s usually hot as hell at this time of year, yet those of us with a European background try to celebrate Christmas as though we were still living in Europe. Our homes and streets are decorated with plastic ‘snowflakes’, flashing ‘icicles’  and inflatable ‘snowmen’. We grow pine trees in plantations (because they don’t grow here naturally) and then cut them down for the sole purpose of hanging Christmas decorations on them. And how about the songs??? They’re all about dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh with Frosty the Snowman walking in a winter wonderland and dreaming of a White Christmas.

Is this mass delusion or collective denial?

A few days ago Cintia and I were in an open-air shopping mall in Batemans Bay. Everyone was walking around in t-shirts and thongs (‘flip-flops’ for our American readers not what you think of as a ‘thong’) and chatting about how warm it was. Then I noticed what looked like snow falling into the courtyard of the mall. This took me by surprise so I investigated and discovered that there was a machine on the roof grinding up ice and blowing tiny flakes of ‘snow’ down onto the scantily-clad consumers below. But the ones I really feel sorry for during an Aussie Christmas are the old guys dressed up as Santa Clause. Can you imagine how hot they must be? Generally they’re a little overweight to start with and then they dress up in fur-lined jackets with extra padding, don thick beards and warm winter hats before parading around the shopping centres carrying a sack full of goodies and stopping to let a bunch of sweaty kids sit on their laps while photographers aim studio lights at them. It’s amazing they don’t all pass out from heat exhaustion.

How does this make sense? (Image source: Mashable)

How does this make sense? (Image source: Mashable)

Yep, its a strange time of year down under… and we don’t even have the Winter Solstice as an underlying reason to celebrate. Here it’s Summer Solstice which means the days now start to get shorter and darker… in the words of John Snow… ‘Winter is coming!’

Still, no-one’s complaining, it’s warm and sunny, our beaches are beautiful and we’re incredibly luckily to live in this wonderful part of the world. Thankfully my own family got over the European Christmas thing many years ago. These days we like to get together, eat salad and summer pudding, drink chilled wine and laze around in the shade. The cultural cringe going on around us might be a bit surreal but I’ll take this over a White Christmas any day.

World’s First Solar Train Comes to Byron Bay

The Byron Bay Railroad Company's new Solar Train (Source: New Atlas)

The Byron Bay Railroad Company’s new Solar Train (Source: New Atlas)

Here’s a nice holiday article from New Atlas about the world’s first solar-powered train. ‘With enough capacity for 100 seated passengers, the train shuttles passengers between two newly constructed stations connecting the CBD of coastal town Byron Bay with a nearby arts precinct and luxury resort.’

‘The train rooftops have been fitted with custom-built curved solar panels to charge the onboard batteries, which also draw on a regenerative braking system said to recapture around 25 percent of energy the train uses to accelerate. The batteries can also be charged at the platform thanks to a large rooftop solar array on the storage shed. Failing that, it can draw power from the grid, which the company says is sourced from a local green energy provider.’

Now doesn’t that seem like the way of the future? And perhaps the coolest thing about the train is that ‘the two railcars used in the innovative rail service were originally constructed in 1949 … with the same aluminum fuselage construction used for aircraft bombers, making them lighter than what we today consider ‘light rail’.’

So here we have a business venture that combines modern technology, creative repurposing and historical preservation in a way that improves it’s community and is easy on the environment. What’s not to love about that?

Happy Holidays everyone, whatever the temperature and however you choose to celebrate.

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