by PD Martin
In today’s Wildcard Tuesday I wanted to look at traditions. I’ve never been the sort of person who was/is ‘traditional’ or who was really into traditions much at all. Having said that, since I’ve become a mother I find myself feeling much more nostalgic (and warm and fuzzy) about traditions.
Two things that have come up recently…
First off, the photo with Father Christmas. It’s that time of year again, when there’s a Santa in every department store. Last week, my daughter raced home to tell me: “Guess what, mum. I saw Santa at Shopppingtown today.” Shoppingtown is one of our closest shopping centres (mall if the language needs translating!). It was also our local when I was growing up and I remember having many photos with Santa there.
It’s also where we got a photo with Father Christmas for our first Christmas as parents, when Grace had just turned one. So it seems fitting that we go again this year, our first Christmas with Liam.
The other nostalgic thing of recent…the Kew Traffic School. This Thursday is my daughter’s sixth birthday, and yesterday afternoon we had her birthday party (actually she’s having three celebrations (!) but this was the party with her friends). Anyway, back in January I booked out the Kew Traffic School on Grace’s request. Yes, she was planning her sixth birthday party soon after her fifth! And yes, you do need to book the Traffic School early for private functions.
Anyway, the Kew Traffic School has many memories for me, and for other Melbournians. You see, it’s been around for ages. It’s basically a mini street system complete with traffic lights, a railway crossing, a roundabout, a few stop signs, a school crossing, giveway signs, etc. I remember going there when I was about eight with school as part of bike and road safety education. I had a ball! You take your bike and helmet and off you go. They also open during school holidays, and you can rent the Traffic School for private parties.
Grace’s party there was a definite success – from all perspectives. From the kids’ perspective it’s a great party. You zoom around on your bike or scooter for two hours and get to eat party food. The parents were pretty happy too, and I had many of them grinning as they were leaving and saying: “They’ll sleep tonight.”
And from our perspective, it was a pretty easy birthday. There’s no real need to decorate the venue (we just did balloons at the entrance) and you bring all your own food in so you get to choose what you want to bring and don’t pay ridiculous prices for it. There’s also a BBQ there, so we had sausages going for the second hour, which were a great hit. Yes, the threat of rain was a problem (no contingency plan) and Melbourne is unpredictable even in December. However, yesterday was perfect weather. Warm and sunny, but not too warm.
Admittedly, I had it easy – Shane did the lolly bags, the cake (a chocolate ripple cake in the shape of a bicycle) and the sausage sizzle. Some of you may remember the fairy princess cake I did for Grace last year?? This year, Shane was keen.
Anyway, the party was a success and we’ve decided to hopefully hold a party at the Traffic School for Liam when he’s six or seven, too. Although with a May birthday I think it might be too risky!
So, what are your family traditions? Or things you do that have become a tradition?
Ah, this time of year is dungeness crab season in San Francisco. We go down to the docks in early morning to get the fresh catch at the best price (usually around $5/lb). It is traditional for my family to have crab on Christmas Eve, and thus it also entails a trip to the waterfront — we drive about 45 south to Half Moon Bay, Pillar Point is the doc, and wait in line with all the others who much have delicious dungeness crab on Christmas Eve. We then take it home, boil it all up, make a big green salad, warm some bread, open some crisp white wine and you can see why it's a tradition!
“They’ll sleep now,” is the highest praise a children’s birthday party can receive from parents! I wish we had a Traffic School here—my kids would love it.
We have a Christmas tree decorating tradition in our house. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the tree goes up, followed by the annual Cursing of the Self-Tangling Light Strings. Every following evening until Christmas, the children are allowed to plug in the tree lights after dinner and place one or two ornaments each on the tree, a tradition that evolved from the annual Futile Hunt For That Enormous Brand-New Packet Of Ornament Hooks I Bought Just Last Year And Put In This Box Right Here I Swear — Or Maybe That One Over There.
On December 24th, my Mother-in-law’s heirloom tree topper is placed by the tallest member of the family who has not been indulging in egg nog — or, for that matter, eggless nog — in order to preserve its fragile little life.
And, as is our tradition, we do conscientiously take down the tree after New Year’s, generally just after the children begin asking if the Easter Bunny might be hiding eggs in it.
Sigh. Don't try to write on a new iPhone. "45 minutes" "dock" and "must"
Hi Allison. I'm a big seafood fan, so the crabs are sounding very tempting! Perhaps I should fly to San Francisco to experience first-hand 🙂 And yes, auto correct/prompt can be brilliant or annoying.
Hi Sarah. Yes, they'll sleep tonight is high praise indeed! And I love your Christmas tree decorating tradition. We don't get our tree until after Grace's birthday, so we tend to get ours up later. This year we're getting it on Saturday. And we're already anticipating the light de-tangling ritual, not to mention the 'try to get the tree straight' ritual!
I do remember Grace's fairy princess cake from last year! My mother made me a princess cake once. I think she was Cinderella. She had a beautiful ball gown shaped from cake baked in a deep mold and decorated with layers and rows of frosting bows, chiffon, and little birds. My mother was very talented at cake decorating. She used a Barbie doll with tiara.
For my own family, I think the biggest ritual we had, outside of Christmastime, was 4th of July clambakes, when I was growing up in Salem and Marblehead, and a western style barbecue after I was married in California. Both were always followed by fireworks in the evening. When the kids were little we spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Pasadena, and went to the Rose Parade, followed by a visit to the floats on display the day after.
Most of all I miss the clambakes. I still crave lobster and steamed clams on the beach every Fourth. I'd like to do that again. On the harbor, it's more like a giant group event, even though people are in family and friend groups, on their boats, or at their clubs. You look around, and everyone is doing the same thing, and it's good fun. Then everyone watches the fireworks over the harbor and sings songs, too much drink and other merriment, followed by a walk home.
Hi Reine. Glad you remember my princess cake, and that it has brought back memories of your very own princess cake. They're very cool for a little girl!
The clambakes sound great. Especially given I'm a seafood fan 🙂 And what's not to love about fireworks? And you've captured the atmosphere for me, too. Even got me thinking about the smells…I imagine part of that tradition would be the smells as well as the tastes and setting.