Sunday, January 4, 2015

The First Post of the Year

Rays of Illumination to start the New Year
As the first post of the year, talking about milestones seems fairly appropriate. So let me blow my own trumpet. This is the 500th post of this current incarnation of my blog. Most of the posts have been about chess, but there have been varying others talking about things such as travel, food and being an expat in Australia. Talking of being an expat, it is coming up to 10 years since I moved to Melbourne, so I will warn of some possible nostalgic posts coming up to celebrate that milestone. Later this year will also mark the 10th anniversary of my employment as a chess coach in Australia, as I sort of fell into that in my first year here. But before everything else...

Who knows anything about Twelfth Night? Not the play by Shakespeare, the night by which all your Christmas decorations should come down? It coincides with the Christian feast of Epiphany or the birth of Christ, or possibly his baptism. Epiphany falls on the 6th January in our calendar and it is debated whether twelfth night falls on Epiphany or on it's eve. Now I always thought of twelfth night as falling on 6th January, but I'm not too bothered either way. It all depends what you think of as the first day of Christmas, Christmas Day or Boxing Day.

One of the most interesting things about looking at religions is the shared ideas and borrowed customs. In England, for instance, Christianity originally had to compete with other pagan religions, and some of these have survived. Easter, for instance, took it's name from the pagan festival of Eostre. Well, I found a new day that I'd never heard of before: Plough Monday. Dating back to the 1400's the first Monday after Epiphany is considered the start of the agricultural year in England and was the first day back to work after the Christmas holiday. That means that next week is Plough Sunday and traditionally it is a day when ploughs and agriculture were blessed. Ploughs were even taken into churches to be blessed.
Plough Monday (from Millington's excellent page)
Next Sunday is not only Plough Sunday, but here in Melbourne, it is the Blessing of the Waters festival. I don't know if this has any connection to the Plough Festival, or is just coincidence. The main event is when the Greek Bishop of Melbourne throws a cross into the sea, and a load of men jump into the water and try to get to the cross first. I first stumbled across this festival a couple of years by accident and it was a great spectacle, so I might just head down to Port Melbourne again next Sunday to see it again.

Port Melbourne is a favourite jaunt for Caroline and I. We enjoy the walks along the bay, and the cafe scene. Saying that, we've spent this holiday period taking in some Melbourne scenery when we have been able to (the 41C day was not a day we were able to). Melbourne is great to daytrip whether it's beaches, bush or inner city destinations you're looking for. Today we drove down the Mornington Peninsula while a few days ago we were in the Dandenongs. One of the first things I remember thinking when I first landed in Australia was that it wasn't all desert. That was how much I knew! But also I was surprised by the amount of vegetation and flora in the region. I've had the pleasure of finding out about new plants, especially gum trees, though I still only know about 5 varieties! Anyway, here are pictures I've taken during the holiday period, because unlike the plough folk of old, I'm back to work this week.

Lilies in the Dandenongs

English Garden at Sky High Mt Dandenong

Spot the cocky Cockatoo

Self portrait on steaming hot day by Port Phillip Bay

Blairgowrie back beach

Clear waters of Sorrento

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