Here is a post about Christmas traditions. I’m writing this because, well, I’ve got a lot of Christmas traditions, as you’re all aware. I wanted to write this for you not because I think my traditions should be your traditions – but because having traditions is important. More accurately, having traditions that you like and look forward to is important. I’m excited for Heather and Abby, starting new traditions of their own, getting to decide what THEY want. So far it’s mostly been discussion of cocktails and video games – and because Dan is involved, ham. This is by no means how I would do Christmas, but that’s what’s so glorious: it represents what’s important to you. You have a holiday which is, for secular folk, about being with people you love, about celebrating and reflecting on the past year, and about preparation for the next. Traditions and feasts are important in all cultures. Christmas, in the northern hemisphere, is nearly at the same time as the Winter Solstice, so it ties in nicely with communities coming together to give thanks that they’ve made it through the worst of the winter and knowing that the sun will come back.
Fortunately, in Australia, we have summer christmas. Summer christmas is GLORIOUS – once you accept that it’s summer. You can still have roast meats, but concessions must be made to account for the hot weather. In my family, we do this by eating dinner outside, on a trestle table, under the trees.
My fellow AP5 contributers have all experienced the glories of Millthorpe in summer, and I’ve told you all about my deep love of Christmas there. I think, in recent years, my love of Millthorpe Christmas is tied closely to my love of Millthorpe NYE. I have been thinking about my traditions at each one, and feeling overjoyed. Fresh fruit, and cream. Breakfast fry-ups. Time to talk with all of you, one on one.
BUT you all know our traditions. I love the fact that I have traditions with you, my darling friends. I hope they continue. So this is about some of the other traditions my family has, because I am feeling sentimental today and I wanted to share them with you.
I have already baked the Christmas cake with my mum, in my parents’ tiny flat in Potts Point. We used to bake the cake together each year, weeks in advance. When I was an undergrad I would come up a few weeks before Christmas to bake the cake with her, but over the last few years that hasn’t happened. It was lovely – although in my mother’s usual haphazard way, we needed to go to the shops four separate times to get things we’d forgotten. We use Mrs Beeton’s rich bride or christening cake recipe. We halve it – and it still usually makes three cakes. It’s an epic recipe. It was lovely to do this again with my mum.
I have had many phonecalls with my dad about Christmas lunch itself. On Christmas day, it’s my job to set the table, but this is a massive project. White table linen, every year – my dad doesn’t believe in big lunches without white tableclothes. We have a menu, so I’m bringing up some lovely paper for it.
Here’s the menu from last time I was home for Christmas, in 2010:
Why yes, that IS some middle-class shit right there. Anyway, dad has been reminded that I don’t eat smoked salmon, but also now knows I don’t like rockmelon with prosciutto. He’s made sure to order extra pork skin to accommodate the endless hunger my sister and I have for crackling. I love phonecalls with my dad about Christmas lunch, because there were a few years where he and I didn’t have many safe topics of conversation at all – but Christmas lunch was always one of them.
I grew up in a secular family, and so Christmas has never been about going to Mass or thinking about Jesus or anything like that. Therefore, most Christmas songs don’t really hit close to home for me. I love the old carols, because my mum sings them, and I love Handel’s Messiah, because my mum always puts it on at about 10.30 on Christmas day (when she’s in the kitchen), and blasts it loudly through the house. When my great-uncle Theo was still alive, I would walk through, on the way to taking linen out to the table in the garden, and I would be stopped by mum, Theo and Mary, and asked to sing the tenor part of the Hallelujah chorus. Not the main bit that everyone knows, but the “and he shall reign for ever and ever” part, which is pretty good fun. An important part of this tradition is that my mum puts it up so loud that you can hear little else through the whole house, and various other people come and turn it down again. Then she turns it up, etc.
Look, here, the Messiah:
This year will be extra special, because of Francis and Amelia. I don’t know how that will affect things, but I’m excited to find out. Tom and I will get to play Auntie and Uncle, and that’s still pretty new for us. Seeing them at Christmas makes me think a lot about the traditions I want when we have kids, and how I want them to experience Christmas, hence this long and sentimental post.
The only thing I’m sad about in regards to going to Millthorpe for Christmas is that I won’t be spending it with you, lovely friends. You are the people who I love the most, other than my Tom. You’re all such an incredibly important part of my life, and I hope that in a few years’ time when Tom and I (hopefully) have a kid, that you’ll all be around to help build amazing traditions. I hope that you enjoy Christmas this year, whatever you do. I hope that you get to do your favourite traditions, and that you can cut out anything you don’t like about Christmas. I hope you only spend it with people you think are rad, and I can’t wait to see you all in Millthorpe.
Tim Minchin has produced what I believe to be a perfect summation of my Christmas experience, so I put it here for you. I think Percy and Tab will love it most of all, and so it is a little anniversary gift to them. I hope the two of you have an amazing Christmas together this year, your second Christmas as a married couple. I hope you create traditions that you love and that you bring back every year.
(A side note: happy anniversary, Percy and Tab! Although you are not related to us, we love you like family, and we are so happy that you’re so in love with each other. You have made it through a pretty difficult first year of marriage, what with that terrible outbreak of The Kemp. We salute you.)