It is the Christmas season in Cairns and the end of the school year. In art class, Grade 1 & 2 children are folding white square paper into eighths, then making careful cuts into the folds and around the edges. The end result – a snowflake to be displayed on the bulletin board. During music, children sing, “I'm dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Santa Claus is coming to Town.” Sprayed-on snow decorates the mural with the large red sleigh in which sits Santa Claus, decked in long red pants, a red jacket with white fur trim, tall black boots, a toque and scarf. Having grown up on the Canadian prairies, I am familiar with snow, the commercial marketing of Christmas from the day after Halloween (a celebration only just beginning to come into its own in Australia) until the last of the Boxing Day sales, and the plethora of songs that portray Christmas as snow-filled and overseen by a fat man in a red snowsuit who rides an old fashioned sleigh from the North Pole. While I am not Christian and do not celebrate Christmas, the White Christmas indoctrination followed me to school and through the community for most of my life. Christmas or not, snow is inevitable on the prairies. I remember as well learning songs in music class about jumbucks, swagmen and billabongs and wondering what on earth I was singing about. I knew what a kangaroo was – evening on the freezing prairies you can see kangaroos in the local zoos. But jumbucks? Swagmen? Billabongs? And somehow they waltzed – waltzes were something you learned in after school dancing lessons.
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