Tuesday, December 19, 2023



From: Yesterday When I Was Young, by Charles Aznavour

Yesterday, when I was young
The taste of life was sweet like rain upon my tongue
I teased at life as if it were a foolish game
The way an evening breeze would tease a candle flame

Who remembers these items from childhood Australian Christmases?


To paraphrase Bob Dylan, where have all the cicadas gone?

When I was a kid, their noise was deafening and likely to drive you crazy, like an El Nino or mistral can do in other psrts of the world. I haven’t heard a cicada in many a year, much less seen any.

Scientists are trying to determine if numbers are declining and, if so why. They have even requested the assistance of civilians -

Christmas beetles:

Not the Fab Four but actual beetles with iridescent colourful shells. They used to be prolific when I was young, you would find them attached to your flyscreen doors, on the driveways, girls even got them caught in their hair.

They have gone the way of the cicadas.

From the Australian Museum website, Chris Reid, Principal Research scientist:
The evidence suggesting a decline is anecdotal yet compelling. In the 1920s, they were reported to drown in huge numbers in Sydney Harbour, with tree branches bending into the water under the sheer weight of the massed beetles. You won’t see that these days, and I’ve never seen a Christmas Beetle come to light where I work, next to Hyde Park.

If we accept that Christmas Beetles have declined in central Sydney, the next question is ‘why?’. The dual life history provides a clue. The adults need eucalypt leaves, and the larvae need the roots of grasses, presumably native grasses. An important habitat for them, the Cumberland Plain woodland, was once widespread in Western Sydney, but less than 10% remains.

Sydney is now bulging at the seams with 4.5 million people, and Western Sydney has absorbed much of the growth. The beetles’ former habitat is now a brick, concrete and tarmac jungle. Christmas just isn’t what it used to be, is it?

Christmas Bush:

Whilst asking about declines, where has all the Christmas Bush gone?

Gardens used to be adorned with these trees and shrubs that bloomed at Christmas. People even put them in vases.

I saw one tree yesterday morning, one, haven't seen any in years, as I was driving to work, which started me thinking and inspired this post.



Who can remember the smell of a real, pine Christmas tree, before the days of plastic and fibreglass trees that often aren't even green anymore?

People must still have real trees because when I drive past the Arboretum in Canberra I pass by large Christmas tree plantations.

I can still smell the pine, feel the pine needles.

Nativity scenes:

When I was a kid each town had a nativity scene in the town centre, put up by the local councils and churches.

No longer, gone, gone, gone, more rare than cicadas and Christmas beetles.

Beer for the garbos

Back in my young days, the men who collected and emptied the garbage bins were affectionately known as ‘garbos’, short for garbagemen. The tradition was to leave a carton of beer out for them on the last day of collection before Christmas as a thank you.

Also gone the way of the dodo.

We also left beer out for the breadman and the milkman.

Southerly change

Harking back again to the days when I was a nipper, I point out that we had no air conditioning back then, no air coolers.

If you were lucky you had fans.

Bear in mind that this was the hottest part of the year as well.

Instead, we went to bed leaving the doors and windows open, hoping that a southerly change would come through and cool things down.

Some other memories . . .

- People sang Christmas carols

- Christmas cards were commonplace

- Playing under the hose but getting feet full of bindis

- Annual heatwaves

- Getting bored being home and wanting to be back at school

- Waking up Christmas morning to find Santa had been

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