Monday, 17 November 2014

The big four ohhhhhhhh: Celebration or calamity?

I'm putting it out there before anyone else does it for me: A certain milestone birthday is approaching all too fast.

Having witnessed many of my peer group endure/enjoy (delete as appropriate) the occasion of their 40th birthday, I have come to the conclusion that there are several ways in which to mark this occasion:

1. The big bash
For party-lovers, this is the obvious way to celebrate.  Hire the local hall, invite as many friends and family as possible, supply a substantial buffet and Bob's your uncle. This is the ultimate people-pleaser as it avoids leaving anyone out.  I have thoroughly enjoyed attending - and indeed organising - many such occasions for others.  Sadly, throwing one of my own is out of the question:  The thought of the obligatory speech is just too much.

2. The girly getaway
I'm thinking spa break/vintage teas/cocktails and clubbing or perhaps a combination of all of the above. This usually involves piling on a train to an accessible city where lots of other new forties (or indeed hen parties) are pursuing similar activities.  Great fun but one should proceed with caution: By the time you've prepped your face, body and wardrobe for this trip - and indulged in some retail therapy while you're there -  it may cost more than your annual family holiday.

3. The great escape
Those who have an a) romantic and b) generous partner may find themselves whisked off to some luxurious location where they can gently ease themselves into their next major life stage.  This type of celebration has almost universal appeal, however there are several drawbacks: a) you have to have a partner b) they have to be romantic and c) they must not be permanently skint.  

I'll cross my fingers and avoid looking at the joint account, shall I?

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Family traditions - and why they matter

I've started to think of this time of year as the festival phase.  We've just had Halloween and as I start to write this post it's November 5th (remember remember?).  And we all know which BIG festival comes along soon after that...

Now that the little 'uns have reached the ripe old ages of ten and eight, we've finally established something resembling a pattern surrounding these big occasions.  Dare I say it, we're starting to build family traditions.  Some have seeped over from my own childhood, but most are ones that our average little family have created - albeit haphazardly and inadvertently - on our own.

I've really not made any conscious effort to do this. In fact, I hadn't realised what we'd done until junior voices started reminding me that "We must make the Christmas cake soon because we always make it during the October break".  Their delight as the familiar box of rather cheap and tatty Halloween decorations appeared was a sight to behold.

Although most of our small rituals are pretty mainstream, I've heard of many more quirky and unique traditions that families follow - and I think that's great. The wonderful thing about family traditions are that they are special to you and yours. There should be no pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations and standards.  If you can't stand craft or cooking, simply don't do it! Find something that works for you and your loved ones instead. Perhaps a new tradition for some this year will be an idea that's currently circulating on social media: wrap up 25 books in the countdown to Christmas and open and read one with your children every December evening until the big day. 

For my own part, I'm looking forward to the usual messy debacle of icing the Christmas cake while the kids use the leftover marzipan as edible play dough.  I'm just as excited about dressing the tree as they are - complete in the knowledge that I'll balance up any lopsided efforts once they're safely tucked up in bed. I'll even welcome the holly-punctured fingers that are the inevitable result of my attempts to make a wreath for our front door.

Do you know the other great thing about traditions? It may sound like a contradiction in terms, but you can always introduce new ones.  This year we're going to attend the local pantomime on Christmas Eve (oh yes we are).  I was taken aback, but quietly pleased, when the children expressed dismay that they might miss our 'usual' Christingle service. (I'm now hoping we might manage both).

And there we have it.  The evidence that, in our own messy and average way, we're creating memories for the younger generation.  Traditions that they may even choose to incorporate into their own grown-up routines (though I don't mind at all if they prefer to create their own).

I will end with one cautionary note, though.  Take care not to get caught on the tradition treadmill. I have a horrible feeling that I'll still be hosting our Boxing Day party in my nineties...

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