Do you ever wonder where your family rituals and traditions come from?  To be honest we didn’t have a lot of rituals or traditions growing up but the one that sticks in my mind is when we would all gather to spend either Christmas day or Boxing day together.  Yes, we celebrate Boxing Day in Australia, and love nothing better than taking it easy, perhaps BBQ’ing and oh, definitely a game of backyard cricket.  🙂 So for at least one day each year we’d all try and get together an be in one place at one time.  It was a wonderfully comforting experience to see everyone at once.
Certainly, tougher than it sounds with five kids, often spread all over the continent or world (oh, that would just be me), then on top of that balancing spouses and kids in addition to siblings.  As you’d imagine it always took a bit of organizing to coordinate.  However, for the most part we tried to make it home and celebrate this one time of the year, mostly for mum.

The last one I remember attending was my final in Australia, way back in 1987.  It was a bittersweet Christmas, and the first since mum had died in April that year and so a little somber and not quite the same as before.  I think we were all missing mum, who had been the larger than life matriarch of the family, and although in ailing health for many years still commanded the attention of us all, but that was then…

So it was interesting when I spoke to my sister recently and asked her what they were doing for Christmas she replied that they would have lunch with the kids that could make it (she has three grown kids, with six grandchildren) and then spend time with Max’s family later in the day.  Of course, I then enquired if the family was going to gather…sadly no and that they hadn’t gathered for many years.

Huh, did I miss the memo on that one???

The closest I came to being home for Christmas was back in 2010 when dad was sick and in the last months of his life, but even then I was back in North America (Canada and Florida) for Christmas and New Year and wasn’t a party to family activities, in fact I can’t even remember if everyone got together…

I have to admit it’s sad to imagine that that tradition is no more.  I suppose given that I’ve lived in Canada for so long (almost half of my life…yikes!) then layer in the fact that for the past 20 plus years I’ve been too engaged with my family here to get beyond much more than a phone call to wish everyone ‘our best’ for Christmas and New Year.

Interestingly, both Zach and Sami said that the best part about our trip to Australia in March was the family get together’s where everyone would congregate in one place, much like our Christmas/Boxing days of yore and for at least a few hours got a taste of the complete and utter bedlam of my side of the family (yes, we’re a boisterous bunch – no surprise there I suppose?).

It’s a shame that they don’t have more interaction with their first and second cousins on an ongoing basis, but that’s what happens when you live half way around the world I suppose.

As you know for the past four years I’ve been working on creating our own little family rituals for just the three of us.

Not all of them are travel based, although we love a good road trip and generally hit the road a couple of times per year.  For the past few years we’ve driven to Florida from Toronto around Christmas using a few different routes, which is just over a 5,000km round trip.  I may be the crazy one here (hey, that’s your outside voice!) but I personally love taking long slow road trips with Zach & Sami.

We have our own rituals when we’re on the road, whether its in North America or internationally.

Namely Sami is our resident foodie and so arranges all of our meals, including booking restaurants and finding cool and off the beaten track places to eat while Zach is chief navigator and neighborhood DJ – each nicely complimenting the other.

I guess the other traditions are the weekend brunches with them each individually.  Zach has a firm favorite downtown where her can get the breakfast Poutine; I mean to say who doesn’t love Poutine?   Whereas, Sam is more eclectic in her choices and enjoys trying new places on for our brunch outings.

All great rituals and traditions, but probably not your average everyday family ones.  If I think about the traditions that most families have in North America they’re mostly centered around the big days – Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas.

Let me see – growing up in Australia there is no concept of Thanksgiving, especially given that our first settlers were mostly convicts and not so happy to be downunder in the first place.  Maybe a non-Thanksgiving is more appropriate in Australia?

The second is around the Jewish holidays (yes, my ex was Jewish and therefore so are Zach and Sami).  Even at my place we still observe Hanukkah with the lighting of the Menorah and singing of the blessing each year – it’s a nice reminder and connection to their early childhoods and a firm family favourite.

This year I’m heading to Italy for Christmas instead of our usual road trip, as I had the kids and took them to Australia for March break so traded the week at March for the week I would normally have them in December.

It won’t be the same without them but hopefully being in Italy will soften the blow…hey, that’s a personal tradition – being in Italy as much as I can that is.  🙂

Here’s to family rituals and traditions and may we all create many more!



“Hanoi Posting”  A series of fictional micro-stories by Terence Wallis

Come visit “Hanoi Posting” at its new home!   


I hope you’r enjoying this years 30 for 30 photo essay running Nov 15 to Dec 15, this is an additional selection of photos that are from my archives that will not make the top 30.

A young Koala at the Ballarat Wildlife Park – Australia
enjoying his own ritual of eating fresh gum leave shoots
Queen Street on a busy Saturday night in Toronto’s downtown core
Dawn over the mighty Mississippi river in New Orleans
Crown Fountain at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago
on a clear winters day
The towers of Firenze (Florence) – Italy
Firenze laid out before me, taken from the top of the Duomo
on a magical summers day
Sunset over the Arno river in Firenze
Inter-island ferries ply their trade on Victoria Harbour
in Hong Kong
The depth of Mong Kok in Kowloon’s bustling market
The family Sampan moored on Vietnam’s central coast