Friday, December 5, 2008

The Silly Season

I can't be sure if it's Australia or if it's just the way that life itself has become, but every year for the last four or five years, it feels like we are running a marathon that starts in November and finishes on New Year's Day. Australians have coined a phrase to refer to this time of the year, they call it, the "silly season". Silly is just the tip of the iceberg really...

In Melbourne, the month of November begins with the Melbourne Cup. This is a famous horse race known in Australia as, "The race that stops a nation". It happens each year on the first Tuesday in November and it's a public holiday in Victoria (the state of which Melbourne is the capital city). Melburnians and Victorians more broadly are not the only Australians who observe Melbourne Cup Day--people in other states might have to go to work, but there is no doubt that when the actual Melbourne Cup Race is run during the day, these people will take a break and watch to see who wins. Australians love to have a bet on the Melbourne Cup and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have something riding on the race whether it be in an office pool or with a bookie--almost everyone seems to have a stake in the final outcome.

The Melbourne Cup is not just a horse race though--it's part of a month long horse racing carnival known as "The Spring Racing Carnival". So I guess really, the silly season starts back in October. The horses are only one aspect, the fashions on the field are also of great concern. Men and women alike spend weeks and months preparing their racing outfits for the racing carnival. The fashion, the food, the drinks, the horses, the money changing hands--it all makes for a very festive atmosphere and so begins the silly season.

Once we get the horses out of our system, it's all down hill until New Year's Day. It becomes very important in Australia, as the year winds to a close, to get together with each group you are associated with. What this means is every group that you are involved with will have some sort of a break up party. There will be work Christmas parties to attend, school concerts and parties to be had, as well as gatherings with friends and family. It's as if all the people in your life need to see you before the year finishes. It's like you've all got to bid a final farewell to the year together before the new year can be ushered in.

The refrain,"Let's catch up before Christmas" has become all to common here. I can't figure out why it is that Aussies are so keen to get together this time of year. I have a few theories. Firstly, it's summer time here and the weather is conducive to getting together and having barbecues, etc and so people are keen to take advantage of that fact. I also think that another reason people are so keen to get together with one another before Christmas or New Year's is that the vast majority of people tend to take multiple weeks off in January and travel to coastal towns to spend their holidays on the beach. So it's almost as if people know they won't see much of each other in the coming month so they want to get quality time in now before that happens.

I don't know, I can't explain the phenomenon. What I can say is that our social calendar is pretty much non-stop from the beginning of November through till New Year's day and it gets busier every year. Is Australia the only place where this happens? Are they the only ones that socialise their way through the end of the year in a "the world's coming to an end on Jan 1st we must see each other before then" kind of way? Please...enlighten me!


Scintilla said...

It's funny, I was just on the phone with my sister in Melbourne a moment ago and she used the phrase the 'Silly Season' too.
It seems that Christmas starts at the tail-end of Halloween downunder in order to get all the social events in before the schools break up for the summer holidays. Mad maudlin!

Anonymous said...

Since I have only been here a little over 2 months, I haven't thought about this yet, but now that you mention it - I can see exactly what you are talking about. It could also have to do with the school year ending as well, and the fact that so many people take long holidays around Christmas-time. Hey - any excuse to party sounds good to me!