Every year we have our Christmas holidays in the same beachside town with my three brothers, four sisters and all their children. We're not all together mind you, we each rent our own house close enough together that the kids can walk to each other's house. We have daggy traditions such as a three day triathlon where we run one day, bike ride the next and swim the day after that. We have a perpetual Scrabble trophy that is fiercely fought over and, every year without fail, my brother-in-law Chris gets so excited about winning Trivial Pursuit that no one will play with him for the rest of the summer.
Another tradition that the kids love is the annual "boys' night" which is held at exactly the same time, but in a different location, to the "girls' night". Maisie has always planned well in advance for girls' night and it sits on her calendar as one of the highlights of her year. A series of phone calls were made this year between Maisie and her two closest cousins, Charlie and Rebekah, in preparation for the big night. Lists were drawn up, shopping trips planned and invitations drafted. This year, nothing about girls' night was to be left to chance.
My eldest sister Helen is the patron of girls' night: she teaches the three and five year olds how to push back their cuticles, leads the eight and nine year olds in the skills needed for the perfect facial and introduces all the girls to such magical movie moments as Spice World: The Movie, Desperately Seeking Susan and Mamma Mia.
The mums are a very important feature of girls' night too – they volunteer their toenails for experimental painting, drink an alarming amount of white wine and champagne which, without fail, leads to an extremely competitive and equally hilarious "dance-off". All of this I know third-hand because, being one of the boys, I'm always on the other side of town, rockin' it up at boys' night.
Boys' night suffers in comparison to girls' night solely due to the weight of numbers. Of my mother's 16 grandchildren, 10 are girls and 6 are boys. And of the boys, four are under four. It is very hard to have a sustained and competitive back yard cricket match, when half the team keep wandering inside to look for more Cheezles. And every year, without fail, one pre-schooler ends up with a fielding injury requiring half a packet of snakes and an emergency trip to girls' night. Neither do the boys appear to be interested in the invaluable grooming tips passed on by their uncles – my informative power-point presentation of the essential techniques for straight-razor shaving drew only muted applause from the four-year-olds. They did, however, respond positively to my brother Tony's two hour lecture on the history of aviation. And Uncle John's screening of the entire Indiana Jones series was a huge hit.
It may seem odd to exchange the routine of work and school life in the city with a summer routine, but it has become such a feature of our holidays that nobody would feel as though they had had a summer break without Scrabble Night, the ‘Feats of Strength' triathlon or, most importantly, Kids Night. This year a new challenge has been added – the Junior Masterchef Cake-off. 20 month-old Rita has heavily hinted that she wants me to help her plate up a New York style cheesecake with a raspberry coulis. Somewhere in between all these challenges we may get some rest.
Does your family have any traditions over the holiday period? Do you holiday with friends and family, or do you like to mix it up?
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