My primary school put on a Christmas concert each year. In preparation, children would sing a wide variety of carols in music lessons before each class selected one to perform. Most were American, and seemed to speak to somewhere else. Christmas was associated with winter -with snow, roaring fireplaces, hot chocolate grasped between wooden mittens. Australian celebrations seemed, in contrast, a pale facsimile characterised by plastic trees, plastic snow, and a notable lack of ugly knitwear.
There were a few carols which sought to carve out another, more Australian, version of Christmas. There was Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris (which has, like several other quintessentially Australian children’s songs, become tainted) and my favourite, Aussie Jingle Bells. It is a parody of the classic Christmas carol, but that wasn’t why it was taught in schools – and that is not why it continues to be loved today. Despite the exaggeration and the jokes, Aussie Jingle Bells saw Australian celebrations – celebrations in singlets and thongs, in the heat, by the water – as entirely valid. It was a celebration of here – not a reminder of elsewhere.
Christmas in Second Life reminds me, in some ways, of Christmas in Australia. Not because there is any evidence of heat, or any other marker of non-traditional celebration. Quite the opposite. Second Life Christmas destinations are almost aggressively traditional. Many reflect very British ideas of what Christmas means. In some instances this is an inevitable aspect of the destination’s overall theme – this is the case in a replica of Buckingham Palace during the reign of King George IV. In others, however, the theme of the destination is simply Christmas, and this is displayed through figures with Dickensian costumes. The yearning is not simply for elsewhere, but also elsewhen – an imagined history.