The Christmas long weekend is upon us. Beginning today, the 25th, Australians will observe a four-day break. Practically all stores and services are closed during Christmas Day. This includes the leading supermarkets such as Coles, Woolies, and ALDI. By law, smaller groceries and retail shops are likewise prohibited from trading. Hairdressers, optometrists, physiotherapists, banks, and takeaway shops…they’re all closed. We can use the time to connect with loved ones, rest, stream, read a book, and pig out on pork crackling, seafood, and roast dinners. Don’t forget the dessert. Tomorrow – more commonly known here as Boxing Day – is a different story. The malls open early, with Myer and David Jones (DJ) welcoming patrons at 5am. The annual Boxing Day report shows a throng of critters bursting onto DJ as the countdown ends. Some Westfields open shop at 7am. Put simply, it’s the storm after the Yuletide.
My first taste of the sale frenzy was in 2009. We went out later in the afternoon and by then, all the best bits had been snapped up. The jackets there were all XL and above. While considering some denim, we talked in our language. There was a Pinoy guy hanging near us. Upon hearing us, he immediately reverted to English. My sister made light of the abrupt change. I guess he thought that we couldn’t speak in English and that, by conversing in the King’s speech, we would not comprehend them. What isn’t advertised on my gulliver is that I was born in Sydney. Counting my childhood, I’ve lived here longer than he had.
A similar thing happened at JB-hifi. I spoke with my mum in our dialect and a couple of oldies were amused. They said that they were from the same state. They appeared to be underweight – or possibly overworked. Next thing you knew, they exited the shop. ‘They’re sisters,’ mum said. ‘Probably thought we would interrogate them.’ While the first example was disconcerting, the second was an exercise in evasion and being anti-social.
On Boxing Day of 2013, I made my second incursion into the shopping frenzy. I would go on another year, but this is so far the only time I rushed out while it was still dark. I woke up before four am, took a quick shower, before ordering something online. Then it was on to Myer. I recall getting 2 $10 vouchers courtesy of Scoopon. Since a family member didn’t want them, I used both to purchase a grey plain polo from the Country Road concession. We had $80 in accumulated gift cards. This covered the cost of three Australian-made bath towels.
They advertise that this was the biggest day of deals on their calendar. With bargains of fifty percent off, they didn’t disappoint. There were a fair number of people when we entered. By 7am, it had become a horde of shoppers. One must note that, at the time, only stores in the Sydney CBD were allowed to operate during that day. The ban on trading in suburban Sydney has since been lifted.
Brekkie, DJ, lunch
We had brekkie at the food court, probably something from Oporto. Heading out this soon was against our routine. We ducked into DJ where the secret was already out. It seemed to attract all sorts of people, many of whom seemed more like lookers than actual buyers. We didn’t stay long there. By lunchtime, Pitt St Mall had turned bumper-to-bumper. It was worse than the morning peak hour. It seemed like the entire city had converged into the pedestrian mall. We also browsed at Cotton On. It was packed to the rafters and we could barely move. We had our lunch at a Japanese place. There were a lot of diners ordering.
From Broadway to North Ryde
We headed to Broadway Shopping Centre. At Target, we managed to nab some Tefal cooking pans which were Made in France. I believe they were also half-price. This kind of day was one and done for me. It was nice to grab bargains, to go outside my comfort zone, and fight the crowds. However, it’s not something I would do every year – especially since we’ve bought all sorts of things over the years. In 2017, I caught a movie at North Ryde with my friend. The movie house was packed as the air-con was turned on. I’ve never seen the theatre as packed – with the exception of the last Avengers in April 2019. When we had a look at Myer after the film, all the good ones had been plundered.
‘It’s all XXL,’ this Desi guy told me. I felt like a tornado had just passed through the local Myer. We were late on the action. GAP was closing down. After I queued, I was told inside that the menswear had sold out.
Steeped in history
Boxing Day is named after the tradition of handing tradespeople Christmas boxes. It has British origins and has been adopted in other Commonwealth countries. Each year, Aussies are expected to spend billions during the shopping bonanza. However, other shopping events have appeared to coax people on other days of the year. Click Frenzy, the online shopping event, has allotted several days throughout the year to get our $$$. Black Friday has become bigger, with bargains a month before the holidays. This is not to mention the midyear and midseason sales, which hawk significant reductions as well. Boxing Day is more than just for purchases. There is an annual Cricket Test Match being played in Melbourne. Furthermore, the yearly Sydney to Hobart race commences on the 26th.
This year will surely be different, as the shadow of COVID looms. The ubiquity of COVID check-ins will change the face of traditional shopping. Social distancing means that stores could only take in a limited number of people. Dining, whether in the food court or other areas, will not be the same. In some cases such as on public transport, masks are still mandatory. Regardless, what makes Boxing Day special – as I’ve proven – is the chance of shopping together with your loved ones during a most important time of year. Yes, there are other opportunities – but they do not coincide with the merriest of seasons. It’s time to play those Christmas CDs.
Feliz Navidad, mi amigos.