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It's time to take the plunge on a whole new set of family traditions

Opinion

In a year when so many customs we take for granted have had to be dispensed with, finding comfort in tradition is more important than ever, writes Madonna King

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Sitting on Santa’s lap. A white Christmas. The Boxing Day match as we know it.

All traditions stolen in 2020 by a pandemic that continues to make our lives uncertain in 2021.

But in a year when so many customs were dispensed with, perhaps it’s important to stick with others, or even make new ones.

On the final day of school each year, my children get to leap into our pool with their school uniform on.

In the early days, they saw it as both naughty and nice. And then, as the years passed, they looked forward to it. In their final years of school, they now do it probably because they’re asked.

But it’s one little tradition, in our house, that signals the end of homework, and the start of sleep-ins and Netflix and catch-ups.

Author Rebecca Sparrow asked whether she could “borrow” the tradition, and this week her three young children leapt into a pool; the smiles showing school was out for 2020.

But she asked her Facebook followers about traditions they had implemented, over the years, to herald the beginning of school holidays.

From parents arriving in the school pick-up zone, with Alice Cooper’s ‘School’s Out’ blaring, to stopping at the nearest bin in a ceremonial dump of torn school shoes, the traditions are a reminder that not everything we do needs to be coloured by COVID.

“We do a piñata every year, filled with fun activities for the summer,’’ Emily said. “It’s hot where we live at the end of the school year. So I also fill 200-300 water balloons and squirt guns and put them in the fridge. When they get home, the huge tub of cool water fun is waiting for them. I usually end up soaking wet.’’

Elise says she decorates the entry to her home in coloured streamers. “We have a celebration afternoon tea (with fancy food and drinks – sprinkles on rim of glasses etc). On the last day of the school year they write their wishes and goals down on flying wish paper which we light and their wishes float up.’’

Kirsty, the mother of twin girls, applies nail polish the moment school ends, and Natalie puts fairy bread in their lunch boxes on the final day, even for her year nine child. Kellie allows one “sneaky day off” in the last week where they do something special. “This year it will be taking our new puppy to meet her grandparents,’’ she says. And Jessica has headed to Woolworths, since her son was in preschool, to buy chocolate mud cake for the final school day.

“My wife buys our twins (14 years) a bunch of flowers each and writes them a really lovely card, filled with all their highlights and achievements throughout the year,’’ Marni says.

Stacey’s children get to open their year-long sealed savings tins and count it. “We have no idea after 12 months. Lol.’’ And they’ll plan how to use it, on the holidays. And Rebecca’s children “camp in’’, by setting a tent up in the living room, making popcorn and oven smores, watching movies and sleeping in the tent.

Cereal sample boxes are a big hit, with several parents ordering them for the holiday period. Coco Pops and Froot Loops are a clear favourite. And this tradition has spanned a generation. “We all got to choose a ‘holiday’ cereal,’’ Emma says. “Once the box was done it was done, but we each got a big box.’’

“Mum had us convinced that Coco Pops were a holiday-only food,’’ Penny says. “One night my brother saw a family put a box of Coco Pops in their trolley and it was the second week back of term.’’ He told his mother, who had a quick response planned. “They must be from Queensland,’’ she said. “Their holidays are later than ours and they’re here to visit the Dubbo zoo.’’

And it seems teachers are alive to the tradition of school-ending and want to celebrate it too. Donna’s tradition is to beep the horn “for most of the way home’’, and Kris, also a teacher, says the first day of holidays at her house is always pyjama day. “No one gets dressed, we play board games and eat box food (party pies and chips usually) for lunch while we watch a movie.’’

Traditions can be born at any time. And might even be a touch more important this year, when so many other rituals have been lost.

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