Our family has so many rituals. Some are – when you come to think of it – unusual. Like pickle fish at Easter time or home made ginger beer at Christmas or spicy syrup and coconut koeksusters on Sundays. I know this is tradition among different cultural groups in South Africa or common to them all. And there is always competition, albeit whispered discreetly behind cups of tea as to whose is better or whose is down right awful.
Our family (on my mother side) has wine sauce with Christmas pudding. It’s yum and I’m yet to find another family who does the same. Okay, okay, don’t lambaste me if you have its famous recipe treasured in your family’s December memories. My aunts used to set aside a day to bake a wide variety of biscuits every December before Christmas (pinched date cookies – never seen them anywhere else). And the same cookies would only make their appearance once a year.
My husband and his five siblings recall fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken as the dinner time meal for every birthday.
My mum in law turned seventy six in the week. The family came together for pot luck. And as usual, the family favorites arrived hot and delicious. Aunty Ursula’s Lesagna and Oumies cheese, spinach and chicken pie. And of course fried rice, roast potatoes and chicken.
And then there’s that photo that everyone forgets was taken and surfaces years later to show kids smiling around the birthday cake. It’s so nostalgic to look at them years later and think of something special from your past.
I love family rituals so much. We’ve started our own. Sean takes a walk with the kids late on Saturday afternoons to hire a movie for the evening.
We go out for dinner with the extended family on the kids birthdays and have a party for their friends on the following weekend. They get to choose the theme, gran gets to roll out the fondant and I get to spend hours icing the cake to their exact specifications.
My kids take it in turns to lay the table every night in the style that they want. Sometimes the plates and glasses are piled high in the Centre of the table. Other times it’s orderly and the layer of the table gets to tell everyone where to sit because it’s their turn and their idea.
We never started all of this intentionally. It just flowed naturally from the mixed masala of personalities that make us us. Rituals are unusual things – they have the power to create a strong sense of unity, togetherness and identity. And all of these will turn into memories that we cherish and give us a sense of where we come from and who we belong to.