The festive season in Australia was marked this year by an intense heat wave, with temperatures in Sydney reaching 40 degrees at times. With many companies closed between Christmas and the New Year, crowds of holidaymakers filled Sydney's Bondi Beach. Most Australians are quite indifferent to all things religious and display an attitude similar to what was known once in Russia as Scientific Outlook. Christians are a minority. Nevertheless, churches all over the country held Christmas services and a big concert of Christmas carols was a highlight of festivities in Sydney. The cancellation of a joyful open-air Jewish Hanukkah celebration in Sydney was a disappointment for many people. The ceremony of lighting a Menorah in Martin Place - the very center of Sydney - became quite popular in recent years. This year, the celebration was considered a security risk after a series of firebomb attacks against Jewish homes and synagogues. Some 15000 Moslems filled streets today in a mostly Arab-populated suburb of Sydney for a big celebration marking the end of the month of Ramadan. Streets were closed to traffic and the scene was reminiscent of Cairo rather than Australia. The country expects elections in 2001 and the premier of New South Wales, Mr. Bob Carr, appeared among the worshipers. What's next? A gigantic fireworks display in Sydney on New Year's Eve. We'll keep you posted.

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