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Friday, December 20, 2013

and a pukeko in a ponga tree . . .

It's almost Christmas . . .

It won't by any means be my first Christmas away from home - I think I've only had one Christmas with the "right" weather in 10 or 12 years. That, for Antipodeans, means a day of scorching sun during which you laze at the most convenient gorgeous water hole, scoffing strawberries and cherries and fresh stone fruit, and possibly some cold glazed ham.

For most of my childhood, Christmas was spent at Eskdale River, where we would swim and play ball games and climb trees and gorge on fabulous food.

In Australia, the Brits would take over Bondi beach and everyone else in Sydney would find a quieter, cleaner piece of coast - luckily that's easy in Oz. But by that stage, I was working, mainly in restaurants, so I would offer to work Christmas so those with families could spend it with them. Tips were good and you're guaranteed a Christmas dinner when you work in a hotel, bar or restaurant.

I also offered to work Christmas when I returned home and fell into journalism. It was always an odd day to work as a reporter - half "Fluffy Bunny" stories and half tragedies that were more tragic because of the day. Christmas is always good for a couple of tragedies, if you look in the right places.

So I'm accustomed to not having a typical Christmas, but I seem to have formed a few traditions of my own along the way. In Dunedin, New Zealand, if I wasn't working at Christmas, friends and I would spend it at a favorite Chinese restaurant that served great (for Dunedin, NZ) dim sum.

There's some irony in remembering that this year, as I wonder where I can go for a meal that isn't Chinese, pizza or wings - the main choices in my immediate neighborhood.

In Korea, I experienced my first winter Christmas and my first white Christmas, and it was much more traditional. Ham, turkey, rare roast beef - all the trimmings. And eggnog - that's where I first encountered eggnog (I could make my own here, a great chef friend sent me a recipe, but I'm a little wary of imbibing raw eggs in China).

And I've adopted friends' seasonal traditions also. I've been scouring the Western marts for a piece of corned silverside because a dear friend's mother makes corned beef for New Year (and it makes great hash), and two years ago, I cooked it for the first time. That is now part of the season for me.

So, this year, my first in China, I'm interested to see what may become part of my own Christmas tradition. It definitely won't be a tree and gifts and children, but I plan for it to still be full of joy and wonder and appreciation.

And the gifts may not be wrapped, but instead at the other end of an international call or skype but. hey, if that's my Christmas, I will be thankful for it.

I hope you are all thankful for yours . . .

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