Well here we are on Christmas, and I’ve found a number of things surprising. For one, I am extremely disappointed in the lack of decorations and general Christmas spirit around Sydney. No lights, few carols, and hardly any Christmas-specific candy to speak of. Can you believe they don’t even have green and red M&M’s here?! Apparently there are certain suburbs where every inch of every house is covered in Christmas lights, but I’ve hardly seen anything here in the city. No wreaths, and only one apartment in our complex that I can see even has lights, let alone a Christmas tree.

Oh and speaking of Christmas trees, what a hassle that’s been to deal with here. We had to visit six different places (including turning up empty-handed at K-Mart, Target, and the Australian equivalent of Home Depot) to find a Christmas tree stand. Apparently this is because 90% of Australians prefer fake trees. We also had to pay $20 for a single strand of lights, which, if memory serves me right, cost like $3 at any corner drugstore in the U.S.

On top of all my frustrations with Australia (which I’ve pretty much come to expect at this point), I’m missing everything about home, and our families, and just the United States in general a lot more than I expected to. I miss the special Christmas episodes of every sitcom. I miss bundling up in a scarf and gloves to go shopping in our old neighborhood, and stopping into Jacques Torres to recharge with a decaded Mexican hot chocolate halfway through. Crazily enough, I miss shopping in overcrowded malls, and getting slightly hot and sweaty because 1) it’s crowded and 2) everyone’s walking around in winter coats. I miss those cheapy miniature candy canes that everyone seems to hand out. And of course I miss Christmas parties, and having a moment to just stop and be festive with friends.

There’s snow on the ground at home, but all along I’ve tried to sell myself on the novelty of a tropical Christmas. I figured it would be something different– maybe we could barbecue, or head to the beach with the masses. As my luck would dictate, it was cool and cloudy this morning and has been raining since the afternoon. And it’s forecasted to rain for the next four days straight, so doing any sort of outdoor activity with the hubs during his four-day weekend is effectively out. Yay!

Tomorrow is Boxing Day, which is apparently a day for more barebecuing, playing cricket, drinking beers, and shopping. I’m not quite clear on what stores will actually be open, since every bar and cafe I’ve walked by has signs up that they’re closed through January 11. I guess that’s just one more joy that remains to be discovered.

I hate to be such a downer in this post, as I know I’m extremely lucky to have this opportunity, and to have such loving family and friends back home who’ve taken the time to call us, or send cards or gifts. It’s just hard to be without not only every familiar tradition and sensation of Christmas, but family and friends as well. There’s some drunken dinner party going on on a patio downstairs, and everytime I hear their shouts and laughs I feel pangs of sadness and loneliness. All I know is that whenever we’re next back in the U.S. for Christmas, be it 2010 or sometime after, I’ll be sure to appreciate the fact that I’m truly home. To everyone out there, I wish you peace and happiness. Merry Christmas!