Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day 2, eh?

Q. What is the difference between Australia Day and Canada Day?
A. Hemispheres.

At dinner, James asked me this question. By now, I am used to my husband asking me awkward questions when I have my mouth full of linguine. I have also learned that I am unfortunately unlikely to get away with 'Mrrf' as an answer.

So, what exactly is the difference? Well, not much, apart from the obvious bits: flag, day, month, country, large bouncing marsupial, small determined chewing mammal, mate!, eh?, and degrees of mild social difference aside.

Canadians celebrate the anniversary of the British North America Act, which formed the Dominion of Canada in 1867; Australians celebrate the anniversary of the First Fleet's arrival (essentially the first moment of what became the nation), as James said in his previous post.

But here's the jazz. Both celebrations are in mid-summer, they're national holidays involving picnics, beer, sunburn, barbeques, going to the cottage/the beach, and an unusual preponderance of flags.

At sundown there will be fireworks. The Prime Minister, in a ceremony of tact, names a carefully-selected group of national 'heros' who promptly turn around and use the media time to criticise the government's policy on immigration/health care/aboriginal and native rights or the environment.

Children and adults wave flags and sport inaccurate renditions of same flag (if we can see through the sun-screen smears) on one or both or all cheeks. More sausages char as barbeques go up in a swirl of smoke. (Headache tablet and antacid sales are healthy the following day.) Music festivals. Street parties. Protests, particularly about our Commonwealth heritage and uncomfortably memorable moments in the treatment of indigenous peoples. Citizenship ceremonies and the handing out of certificates and trees in little pots, soon to languish in backyards everywhere. It's all there.

The differences? A few. The Australian flag is older, has more colours (so I was reliably informed), and is, I suspect, harder to accurately depict in face paint - never having tried it myself. Pavlovas versus pancakes. Beach cricket vs softball. Parched plains versus Great White North. (Great White Shark versus Growling Grizzly Bear -- but don't believe the locals, they wouldn't know what to do if they saw the real thing, really.)

That's about it, but here's one final difference: if a Canadian were to take offense because I said they were basically the same festival, I would probably never know because they would be so polite, tactful and overtly nice about it ('Just smile, Cathy.' - 'I am, Doug!')

But if I'd annoyed an Aussie, on the other hand, I'd hear about it. 'Wotcha, mate?' They'd probably crack a grin and settle in for the favourite national sport: having a bluey (a barney, a ruck; a fight). Great White what?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a smile! Two of my favorite nations... :)