Merry Christmas to You

I haven’t yet had a chance to put together a complete version of days 4-7 of the Japan trip. Hopefully that’ll occur soon. Before a “days 8-11” post anyway.

Instead I’ve opened this draft about Christmas. It was originally going to be mainly a collection of Christmas songs, as I did last year, but then I got thinking.

Christmas and other Year’s End celebrations are a collection of rituals. There are the obvious thematic ones – religious and secular. Then there are the family/ cultural ones which are interconnected but distinct.

For example, I celebrate Christmas as a religious commemoration with Mass. While the way I believe has changed as I’ve grown up, being unable to continue the tradition of going to Mass at Christmas (and during the year tbh) would feel strange. So I’m glad we’re able to do it while travelling still.

Then there’s the secular side of things. Santa Claus promoting gift-giving and receiving with the “season of goodwill” – or season of consumerism! 😛 I follow the guide of “something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need” when picking presents to give.

And the family traditions… each is different – and subject to change as circumstances change. Though this is where one feels a change the most.

When I was growing up, we’d open presents once everyone woke up on Christmas morning. We weren’t allowed to get up before 07:00 though. We might go to Mass at 09:00 or have gone the night before.

We’d have Christmas lunch at home and probably try out a few presents. The big event was in the evening. We’d head off to Grandma’s to see all the aunts, uncles and cousins on that side of the family. There’d be backyard cricket and games, plenty of talking and catching up, a large spread of dinner and dessert, then the family Kris Kringle.

If we weren’t at Grandma’s we’d have headed up north to see my other grandparents.

In recent years things have changed a little. I’ve moved away from the family home and I have a second family in my partner’s now too. I don’t know what the future holds, but last year had the feel of a new tradition being built. Not to replace the old entirely but to enhance it anew.

Then of course, there will always be years where circumstances are just different, full stop.

Like this year, where my Christmas might even be a white one.

Christmas carols

There are more carols than the following but here goes. Favourites

LaTUCS 2017:

Songs I learnt as four-part harmonies and sang with my choir this year.

  • Away in a Manger
  • Ding-Dong Merrily On High
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing
  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Carol of the Bells

Others:

  • Silent Night
  • O, Holy Night
  • Sleep, Little Baby, Sleep
  • The First Nowell
  • The Shepherd’s Farewell
  • Fantasia on Christmas Carols (Vaughn Williams, a beautiful one I sang last year)
  • A Merry Christmas To You (/ Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel

Japanese Christmas:

Went to 22:00 mass and everything was in Japanese. But the parts of the Mass were familiar, and some songs sung were carols. If I had had the phonetic writing of words instead of just the Japanese characters in front of me, I could’ve sung them as I knew the tunes.

  • Come All Ye Faithful
  • Angels from the Realms of Glory
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • O Holy Night
  • Joy to the World
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Japan Holiday Day 1-3

Hello all from Japan!

I flew out of Australia on Monday. We started the first leg at a very early hour, then had a lunchtime layover before starting our second leg.

Plane trip photos:

Remember Womble Bear? He’ll be in some of these photos – after all he is my travel bear now.

Our first night was spent in a lovely guest house only a short train ride from Kansai Airport. The managers were very welcoming and we slept on futon mattresses on tutami matting. A true Japanese experience.

We’re now staying in a tiny apartment in Kyoto.

Catching the train everywhere has been good so far (excepting yesterday morning), though it was easier once we didn’t have to carry our big luggage around. Also, maps and even the supposedly very good app can’t account for everything. So we’ve been very grateful to the friendly locals who’ve helped us out.

Yesterday was a full-on day. We started the day by exploring the edge of Osaka, near to where we were staying and the airport. We were going to walk it when the lovely guest house offered bikes!

It was the first time I’d been on a bike in a while and I was a bit wobbly at times. But it was so. much. fun. 😀 We cycled around down the main street of the area towards the beach. There were bike paths around there and we made good use of them. I’m quite pleased with myself, tbh. Especially since I even managed to go up hills a few times. The starting was the main annoyance because I was always a little wobbly at first, the bike weaving about a bit as I tried to push off effectively.

Some context: I learnt to bike ride late, because I have mild coordination and processing problems. It was difficult to balance and stay on the bike without wobbling too much to continue, and I hated hills because they were too difficult – a problem given that the area I grew up in was full of them.

My best biking experience came when we went overseas to Holland, which is super flat. At a bike path there, I could ride quite well. That was a while ago though and I haven’t really been motivated to practice bike riding.

This year, I’ve wanted to bring my bike from my hometown to Melbourne but haven’t yet. After yesterday, I’m re-motivated.

The other activity of yesterday was to go to Nara and see the Giant Buddha and the deer. The Giant Buddha is indeed impressive. Imposing and magnificent.

The deer were cute but also pushy. They know how to get food from humans. Did you know that an impatient or upset fawn sounds like a squeaky door?

I didn’t get many photos of the afternoon at Nara because my phone died on me. I’ll grab some from others later.

I got lucky on day 3 though – my phone lasted pretty much all of the day. After some mucking around with transport details (let’s just say trains can be confusing if you’re not a local, until you get used to them), we got the right train and settled in for a journey to Himeji Castle.

The Castle itself was pretty cool. Once inside the main keep we had to take off our shoes and replace them with provided slippers. Climbing steep stairs through the six floors to the top is tricky in slippers! The views were pretty good though.

The castle was refurbished only two years ago so we could see it in all it’s glory. It’s a magnificent structure.

We finished the day with a look at the harbour of Kobe on our way home.

Today we’re exploring Kyoto to see places like Nijo Castle, Nishiki Market, and Kinkaku-Ji (Golden) and Ginkaku-Ji (Silver) Temples, among others.

“An ORGANic Christmas” Concert Review

Last Saturday’s concert from MonUCS (Monash University Choral Society) was really good. It had fun pieces and grand pieces and carols. An organ accompanied some songs.

Their opening piece (Regina Coeli from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni) began with quite the entrance. The choir walked in two columns between the audience seats in order to get to the front of the church to perform from. I thought that was pretty cool.

There were the pieces I hadn’t heard before, sung with vocal strength and expression. Operatic choruses which were gorgeous to listen to and surprising, emotional and sweet by turns. Some of these pieces had soloists – all of whom performed very well. These pieces included the Priest’s Chorus (from Die Zauberflote), Chorus of Enchanted Islanders (from Alcina), Dido’s Lament and Final Chorus (from Dido and Aenea) and even a humming one, Humming Chorus (from Madame Butterfly).

I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I watched my friends perform after weeks of hard work. I also enjoyed singing along to some of the carols as we were encouraged to do – though only at mezzo piano volume so as to hear the actual choir. The carols were not all your usual fare – in fact, two of them I only knew thanks to the carolling gigs last week. That made it all the more fun. Carols included Infant Holy Infant Lowly, Zither Carol, Gloucestershire Wassail and others.

The choir were balanced beautifully, each section blending well (the ultimate goal) while holding their own parts in a superb manner. Each section also had its chance to shine, enabled by the range of songs chosen. For example, it was noted that the tenors sang “without hesitation … and with a wonderful lightness” as one friend put it. The altos were the smallest section of the four, but it didn’t feel like it. The basses carried the bottom range as they are supposed to, giving strength and resonance, while the sopranos were glorious on top.

Bravo, MonUCS! I look forward to seeing what you’ll do next year – and to singing with some of you at MIV. Well done!

 

 

 

 

Holiday gatherings and fun

Writing this quickly before I head off to my last choir night of the year.

I’ll write a review of the concert I attended on Saturday (MonUCS’ “ORGANic Christmas”) tomorrow. I want to do it justice and time slipped by me today. In part because less sleep last night from a choir holiday party combined with the afternoon sun on a 37*C day is not conducive to productivity, I think. XD

Choir parties are the best – always great food and conversation with lovely welcoming people. Last night’s one had Karaoke even!

Carolling with MIV – and at LaTUCS’ own gig – has been really lovely this year. My favourite carols are a lot more complex now than the favourites I had when younger and it’s really nice to perform them with friends.

There are still a few chances to see the MIV carollers in the lead-up to Christmas, but I won’t be among them.

As of next Monday, I’m off to Japan on a family holiday until the New Year. I will try to keep you more-or-less abreast of our journey with the help of Womble again  I make no promises as to when any updates will occur though.

Must dash to LaTUCS now….

Remember to buy concert tickets to see the MIV choir with soloists and orchestra perform on January 20th (less than ONE MONTH to go!!): Facebook event here and tickets here. Monday was spent getting decorations for MIV with other committee friends…. I’m getting excited now.

 

 

Fun stuff: all the choir things

Yesterday, my choir (LaTUCS) sang carols at an end-of-year event at uni. Nice and I’m hopeful it’ll lead to further opportunities.

This weekend (starting this evening) I will be a-carolling with MIV2018 people.  Tomorrow afternoon too. Our concert tickets for the end-of-festival performance are on sale now. Put the evening of the 20th of January 2018 in your calendars (Facebook link here – friends should expect invites shortly) and get some tickets via this link.

Also, MIV merchandise sales close on Monday, December 11th – this coming Monday which also happens to be the one-month-out date! Wow. If you want a tie-dye tote bag, a keepcup, promise of concert CD and participant photo, or tickets to the “Aquademic” Dinner, please head on over to miv.org.au, sign up for an account on the website and buy the things you want.

This weekend has other fun apart from carols. Tomorrow evening I’m attending a choir concert by MonUCS. Can’t wait – the program sounds really good. 😀 Here is a link to the Facebook event and click here for tickets (or get them at the door). Hooray!

 

Finally – marriage equality is law in Australia

Image of text from attorney-general's website, as follows: Marriage equality: On 7 December 2017, the Australian Parliament passed the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 to change the definition of marriage and provide for marriage equality in Australia. The right to marry in Australia will no longer be determined by sex or gender. The Australian Government is progressing arrangements for marriage equality to commence quickly. Further updates will be advised on this website as they occur.

It’s finally, finally, finally happened. Today, in the late afternoon, the Members of Parliament (House of Representatives) passed the bill that had come from the Senate last week. An amendment to the Marriage Act to remove “man and woman” and replace that with “two people”.

Here’s a link I saw on Facebook – the final minutes of procedure and voting – and a lovely celebration from the public gallery (and floor of the House).

I loved the celebration song before, but I really love it now. New Zealand’s song (and process) was better though…

This vote should’ve happened some years ago and it definitely shouldn’t have needed an expensive postal survey in order to happen – with nearly another month between that beautiful result and today. The grandstanding around this has been ridiculous from many sides (including what’s in the video).

It’s been a long time coming. (It still has to go through a final bit of procedure – the Governor-General has to sign off on it.)

Those who married overseas immediately have their marriages recognised. Weddings for others will start in mid-January because there is a requirement of at least a month’s notice. See all details about that and other procedural things at this link: https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Pages/Getting-married.aspx

I can’t wait for all the lovely weddings to start. 😀

Today’s outcome is super important in a major way. For many people, the result is an affirmation of their love. Equality is equality – and equality before the law matters. Now all people have the choice to participate in marriage if they wish. It is also just nice to know that the law agrees that it doesn’t matter if they want to marry someone of the opposite or same sex. What matters is that both parties are happy and love each other.

As one of my friends on Facebook put it, “Think of all the children born today who will never know a life where marriage wasn’t legal for everyone, no matter their sexual orientation.”

Kids will grow up with that as the societal narrative now, reinforced by the law. Yes, there will probably still be the conservative nobs and fundies who say otherwise and people who just “don’t quite get it”. But the majority support the new narrative – people from a diverse background. Change has happened and will keep on happening.

After all, there’s still plenty to do to ensure all are truly equal. In the LGBTIQA+ sphere, there are broader discriminatory practices that need to be fought, for example. Also, beyond that, human rights/ social justice issues are all interconnected.

But for now, it’s time to celebrate.

 

 

[Reblogged] Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

Interesting stuff in the Captain Awkward archives. Reminds me a bit of some of the things (like stress buckets and activity scheduling) we looked at in my mental health subject earlier this year. So I am sharing it and bookmarking it. Check it out.

Also: five days in a row of blogging last week, yay! That is down to scheduling and while I know I can’t always do it, it’s nice when it happens.

via Guest Post: Breaking The Low Mood Cycle

[reblog] It’s Not Over Yet

Bah humbug, of course Turnbull did.

Tosser.

Give Alistair Lawrie’s blog post a read then head over to http://equalmeansequal-justequal.nationbuilder.com/ and make sure your MP does their job in voting for what we asked for – a Marriage Act that doesn’t discriminate. Religious celebrants are already allowed to refuse service if it goes against their religious beliefs or the laws of their religion. that’s why there is a difference between religious celebrants and civil ones! Grrrr.

Bloody politicians – please get it done next week with no stupid amendments! *grumbles*

via It’s Not Over Yet

Oh, and btw, please stay safe this weekend Victorians. It looks like we’re in for a wild ride (that’ll have already begun in some parts when this post goes live). Batten down the hatches if you can – or else (if you’re like me and have pre-arranged plans) be very, very careful.