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.)
Apologies for the delay, folks. I was in Melbourne for a very long weekend. It was lovely! I set aside a couple of hours yesterday and sat down at an internet cafe to make post go, but uploading photos took forever and I thought my brain was going to explode from frustration.
This was my sixth trip to Melbourne, and the third I’ve taken in the last eight months or so. I rather like it there! So I thought I’d tell you all about some things that are awesome about Melbourne. I’ve sort of been wrestling with the idea that novelty is what’s required when travelling. I’ve developed a bit of a beloved routine about visiting Melbourne, now, because I know the things that I like to do and where they are. I want to go to Melbourne because I want a kugelhopf and a visit to Sticky and to wander around a place that is familiar but not home. I still think that’s a real and valid thing. Hmm. Anyway, on with the slide show.
The last three times I’ve gone to Melbourne I have stayed in the same hotel, in St Kilda. (St Kilda is awesome because it is basically like Newtown, with lots of cafes and funky little shops, except at the beach, with Luna Park.)
One of the reasons why I love that hotel is that right across the road is my favourite cafe, the Galleon. All the tables are grandma-style coloured melamine, and I’m starting to think about having one in my kitchen one day. They make a great BLAT, which is pretty much my favourite breakfast. When I’m feeling seedy and haven’t slept enough, which seems to be the default setting while travelling, a BLAT and a juice equip me for the day.
I should probably add at this point that many of the Melbourne traditions are food-based, and on this trip we did have trouble fitting enough meals in the day. Breakfast is important, but lunch tends to be delicious snack food.
We took a trip to the American Doughnut Van at the Queen Victoria Markets. These things are hot, amorphous, jam-filled and coated with sugar. They are pretty amazing. We bought lots, and then discovered that they are not so fantastic cold. Alas.
One day for dinner we made a pilgrimage to Soda Rock, a 50s-style diner. I’d heard about Blue Heaven milkshakes and I decided I had to try one. It was strange. I had heard that Blue Heaven was vanilla with a touch of citrus, but I think it’s actually a touch of berry, so the flavour is a bit like bubblegum icecream. The thickshake was almost chewy. It came with a spoon on a tiny paper doily that I have started using as a bookmark. There are little jukeboxes on every table but even if you don’t put money in it plays 50s music all day. Some of the songs were unfamiliar to me despite my years of listening to 2WS on Saturday nights.
I always buy a chocolate kugelhopf from Monarch Cakes in St Kilda. I didn’t get a picture of my kugelhopf and after a day stuffed in a locker in Southern Cross Station and then sideways in an overhead locker on a plane, it’s not exactly at its most presentable. (Also I’ve now eaten at least a third of it.) But you can see one on the website. They’re made from yeast pastry and have melted chocolate swirled throughout. They actually travel pretty well due to not being cake as such.
It’s also important to visit Lord of the Fries, for a cone of chips with Belgian garlic mayonnaise. It is pretty great! One time I had some nuggets there, though, and couldn’t figure out if they were pork or something because they sure weren’t chicken. Then it turned out that the whole place is vegetarian and the nuggets were tofu. It was surprising! (Yesterday we had Poutine. It was delicious once the cheese melted under the heat of the gravy.)
There are non-food traditions too. I always go to Sticky and buy a crapload of zines. I really like the way I can buy half the shop’s inventory and it costs me under $20. It’s in the Degraves Street Subway, which is a fascinating little tunnel leading to Flinders Street Station.
Degraves Street is one of the charming little laneways that people go on about in Melbourne. There are tiny cafes more or less set into the walls. If I hadn’t still been full of chips I would have thought about having an iced chocolate from somewhere. My favourite shoe shop, Sole Devotion, is right near the corner of Degraves Street and Flinders Street. Usually I spend hundreds on an amazing pair of Fluevogs. Nothing really took my fancy this time. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – I’d more or less decided not to buy any more shoes on this trip after discovering that I have quite a few already. I started lining up my shoes against the wall while cleaning and there are over 20 pairs there, with more floating about the place. But I did end up buying these lovelies from a stall at the Queen Vic Markets. The guy who sold them to me was a shoemaker of 50 years, he said, and he showed me how to stretch an overly tight instep using warm water and Sunlight soap (or Velvet soap).
Melbourne also has:
friendly batman graffiti; public art with owls in
Mag Nation. Julia, this is the place that you always want to be there when you travel. It is a magazine shop that sells coffee. You buy a coffee if you want, sit down in one of their incredibly comfy chairs, and then you use their free internet as much as you like. Probably they wouldn’t even care if you didn’t buy a coffee. Once we were here and there was an american film wanker talking to a guy who desperately wanted him to like him and the internet was bad, but every other time it has been great.
Also there was a magazine with a pig in boots.
In conclusion: roadtrip y/n?