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With just 23 days left until Santa arrives, it got me thinking.

Don't worry, I haven't been contemplating the meaning of life. I have been musing over Christmas.

Not its meaning, rather the words of that Perry Como classic.

You know, 'It's begining to look a lot like Christmas . . .'

Well, I have been thinking about when it actually begins to feel like Christmas.

A quick survey of my colleagues revealed that, besides the commercial signals which seem to start the day after Halloween, the general consensus was the weather.

Many referred to nights becoming darker, the wind developing a chill that cuts right to the bone, a scattering of snow.

One even mentioned the start of Coca-Cola ads on TV.

They talked of the crisp air, the smell of fresh pine needles, mince pies, mulled wine and a nice fire.

All sentiments commonplace in the northern hemisphere which have shaped Christmas in the Western world.

But, for me, the start of Christmas was none of those things.

As a child growing up in Australia, I could never understand the reason for a big meal - not that it stopped my parents.

We had all the trimmings of a Christmas roast. I just insisted on a salad as well.

As for knowing Christmas was coming, well, there were certain other indicators.

Sweat patches developing five minutes after you put on a fresh batch of clothes and, in the years after I got my licence, the appearance of 'truckie tan' on my right arm.

And, rather than head to the pub to get warm, you made any excuse to go to the supermarket just so you could stand in the freezer section to keep cool.

Christmas, for me, marked the start of summer; the warning light to three months of intense heat.

It wasn't the image of snow-covered streets and chestnuts roasting on open fires which is projected around the Western world.

Now, having lived in Northern Ireland for a number of years, I have come to appreciate this winter Christmas - I even think I like it more.

I get the Christmas songs, the desire to light a fire (and the need for one), the excessive amount of food, the mulled wine - why on earth drink it cold when it's freezing out there?

And, most of all, the snow - I love it.

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