Summer in the East – A Time for Family and FeastThere is no shame in admitting that we are all pretty lucky to live in the Eastern Suburbs and that this is particularly evident over the summer period when our geographic features become the centre of so much of our recreation and sport. We have a great many lovely beaches, bays and sea pools, as well as beautiful parks to choose from for swimming, walking, running, exercising, barbecuing, meeting with friends and relatives, or just enjoying the coastal sea breezes that keep us a few degrees cooler on the hottest of days than the rest of Sydney. We are very fortunate!
Summer in Australia coincides with major religious celebrations as well as extended holidays for many of us. For our Jewish community, the beginning of summer is celebrated with Chanukah, and eight days of amazing donuts. Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day combine to give us three public holidays that are often taken as a week’s holiday. School, TAFE and university holidays ensure that summer is a time for family, friends and leisure.
For me, this period is defined by a number of key occasions, with each event having its own special meaning.
In my family, birthdays mark the beginning of summer, with my mum, brother and myself all having birthdays within a week in early December. This has provided an excuse for our family to have a combined lunch or dinner, which we also refer to as our end of year celebration. We go somewhere special and it signals the beginning of the Christmas period. We have a family rule that the Christmas tree cannot go up until the birthdays are over.
The next big event takes place when the Christmas trees start to fill the shopfronts and families like mine debate whether we should buy the largest or the bushiest tree. Size and shape matter, as does the smell. My grandmother succumbed to buying a fake tree many years ago but my parents have always insisted on the real thing. My dad’s family apparently had gum tree branches as their Christmas trees when he was young, which sounds lovely but is perhaps not very practical. We had a smallish but well shaped tree this year and it smelt divine. My nieces decorated it perfectly!
For me, the coming of summer this year was also associated with my attendance as a Waverley Councillor at a number of prize-giving and graduation ceremonies. It is lovely to be part of such happy and proud occasions. It must be said that our teachers do an amazing job and very often contribute their own hours and other resources to enhance the educational experience of our young people.
I was also witness to the fact that many of our schools now depend upon the voluntary efforts of their Parents and Friends Committees to provide what must be seen as the basic requirements of a decent education.
As summer warmed up and Christmas drew closer, the morning traffic jams came to an end as the schools shut down for the break. What bliss! The queue of traffic up Arden Street disappeared and even the traffic congestion around the light rail construction zones improved. Trying to get around UNSW was still crazy, but Anzac Parade was definitely less clogged. Even as Christmas drew closer and the lines of cars made their way to Eastgardens, Randwick and Bondi Junction, most people seemed to feel at least some of that Christmas spirit, making the build-up of traffic more tolerable.
Summertime in the Eastern Suburbs is defined by the swarms of locals and visitors that descend upon the beaches. The locals of Clovelly are easily identified due to their location on the steps of the promenade, as they know from experience that a king high tide could swiftly whisk their belongings away. At Bronte you can find the locals swimming between the flags or in the bogey hole, while the lifeguards franticly explain to tourists that the red and yellow flags identify the safe place to swim and do not mean danger. Wylie’s and McIver’s Baths are where you find the Coogee locals after 10am. Like many others, I spend quite a bit of my time over the Christmas holidays as a volunteer lifesaver and I can honestly say I love doing it.
Christmas Eve came and went with church services and many angels and shepherds, the late wrapping of gifts and the singing of carols, while the under 30s hit the Clovelly Hotel, then the Robin Hood, catching up with school mates they may not have seen for 12 hours or 12 months.
Finally the big day arrived with gifts, food and lots of fun with family and friends. We do it the traditional way in my family, with all the bells and whistles: turkey, ham and pork, potatoes and pumpkin. As the official trifle cooker, it was my responsibility to bake the cake and make the jelly ready for the trifle assembly. As it is the only time of the year that I bake, the quality of the cake is often debated.
Locally, Christmas Day is defined by many by the carnage of the annual green dye egg hunt at Clovelly, as flocks of children big and small battle it out in the bay, fighting to find an egg and win a pudding. Many then return home to eat far too much Lucas Meats ham, take an afternoon nap, then finish with trifle or pudding.
I’m finding that Boxing Day is slowly becoming the main social event of the holiday season. With less pressure for perfection than Christmas Day, and most of the cooking done the day before, it is usually a combination of family and friends, the Boxing Day Test and a walk to the coast at around 1.30pm to watch the Sydney to Hobart boats pass.
We are so very lucky. This is an absolutely amazing place to live. And while summer also means the wasps are out in force, I would not trade this for the world. By the way, whose job is it to remove the Christmas tree and decorations, put the furniture back in its place and clear out all the empty bottles? Let my dad know if you’d like to help!
Dr Marjorie O’Neill is a Waverley Councillor. The views expressed here are her own, although we generally agree with them.