what I know about rituals…


Today is the first Sunday in December. That means the Christmas tree goes up.

We’ll pop on some Christmas carols, open a bottle of bubbles, have some yummy nibbly things and argue about which power cord is the one that shorts the rest of the house and what we did with the footstool that normally sits where the tree will go.

Mr T will take charge of the construction and Miss T and I will chat idly about the problems of the world and how dare One Direction change their concert dates to coincide with the start of next years HSC.

Our tree is fake, and the decorations are an eclectic mix of Christmases past. There are ornaments I handmade when I was bored and very pregnant and there are ornaments Miss T made when she was little. Each year Miss T chooses a new ornament, so the tree is a reflection of her changing tastes over the years.

Nothing matches- and I love that about it.

It’s a tradition, and, given that I’m not much of a one for traditions, it’s incredible that this one lasts.

Why am I telling you this? Sarah Wayland, over at That Space In Between, is hosting a linky bloggy thing on The Things I Know About Tradition (or ritual)- so I figured I’d pop in my 2c worth.

As a kid growing up in country NSW, we would spend Christmas at either my paternal grandparents house in Tumbarumba (in southern NSW) or in Sydney with my mothers’ family.

Mum would pile all 4 kids, 2 dogs, the cat, the expertly hidden Christmas presents, a couple of loaves of white bread made up into devon and tomato sauce sandwiches, ice cream containers for when the middle sister got sick, and one of those foam flasks made up with cordial into the station wagon. Once Dad was on the road, he didn’t stop- except for petrol.

When we were living in Merriwa, the hot 10hr drive to Tumbarumba was dreaded, while the Sydney run on the alternate year was less daunting. When we were in Bombala (in Southern NSW), it was the opposite.

I don’t remember much about the Christmases we spent in Sydney. As a kid I was asthmatic and my throat would seize up from all the cigarette smoke in Nans house. We slept on the floor and I would spend most of the visit wheezing and struggling for breath. I grew to dread those visits.

The Tumba years I’m clearer on. I remember the dry heat, afternoons at the town pool and the Boxing Day cricket test on the ABC. I remember the year it snowed at Laurel Hill just outside town. It was the closest to a White Christmas I’ve ever had.

I remember the ham salad suppers, and the time all my illusions were shattered when I saw that the trout that Poppa had said he hit over the head with a piece of 4 b 2 when it came up for air in the Tumbarumba River, had actually been purchased from Snowy River Fisheries.

On the way home we’d buy boxes of cherries at Young and spit the seeds out the window, red cherry juice dripping down our chins. Dad would warn us not to get the juice on the fabric seats. When we got home we’d have to help Mum pit and bottle the rest so we could enjoy preserved cherries all year round.

There was no air conditioning in the car, so the windows would be wide open and we’d argue about who got to sit next to one. Inevitably someone would throw up. Then we’d all get in trouble because Dad couldn’t hear the cricket on the radio.

The one thing that was always standard wherever we were was the Christmas morning ritual.

We’d go to bed early, with a red plastic hessian Santa sack on the bottom of the bed. Sometime in the middle of the night we’d wake and feel the weight on our legs as Santa had crept in while we were asleep and filled the bags.

Dad would start patrolling the hallway from about 5am looking for the first sign that one of us might be waking. Mum would tell us not to eat any of the chocolate before breakfast because you’d get worms.

Santa still brings a stocking of chocolates for each of us- 4 get left at the front door of Mum & Dads Sydney home. Whilst we all live in or around Sydney, we’ve all partnered and kidded up, so things are very different.

There’s a hot lunch at Mum and Dad’s for whoever doesn’t have to spend it with in laws. Mr T and Dad supervise the cooking of the pork and the roast potatoes. They cook them outside on the barbecue kettle. Mum generally takes care of the turkey the day before to keep the kitchen from getting too hot. Mr T brings his knives, because my Mums’ are never sharp enough and it’s his job to carve all the meat.

Don’t tell my Mum, but I don’t enjoy a hot lunch in the middle of the day. I know it’s traditional in our family, but it doesn’t seem, well, appropriate for the conditions. So I pick at it and save myself for prawns and bubbles on the deck later in the evening with our next door neighbours.

It’s now traditional for my husband to bring the trifle. I pick at it too.

Then there’s a swim, an argument amongst the men as to who gets the best and coolest spot on the slate tiles directly under the air-conditioning vent. Mum will bring out board games and we’ll argue over the validity of words in scrabble.

This year, my father’s not well, but rather than move the day to our house or that of my sisters where it would be easier on him, Mum is still insisting on hosting it. For her it’s about the tradition- and keeping it as unchanged as possible for as long as possible.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

10 thoughts

  1. Thanks for a peek into your Christmas rituals Jo. Enjoyed it. I like Christmas even though I don’t celebrate..

  2. Oh Jo the detail is divine. I felt like I was in the car with your dad. My bestest friend growing up had a giant red valiant and us four kids would all squeeze in the back with our thighs burning from the seats – one day going round a corner the back door flung open and one of us tipped out still holding on to the lap belt. We cried with laughter for months afterwards.
    My xmas tree is a mess of old and new. Thats the way we like it. Thanks for linking up x

  3. Oh… how nice to hear about family traditions and rituals! I could relate to a lot of it – what did we do before cars had airconditioning. Imagine when we were young if we’d had personal DVD players and headphones. No fighting. But also no games and singing.


  4. This was just lovely. Your car trips sound like the ones of my childhood too. Dad never stopped for anything but petrol either.

    I loved reading about your Christmas traditions, right down to the arguments. Not sure Christmas would be the same without them!

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