The fun of inventing new Christmas traditions

"I love our Aldi Christmas tree - $50, robust, authentic enough to fool a drunk possum" ... Cal Wilson
"I love our Aldi Christmas tree - $50, robust, authentic enough to fool a drunk possum" ... Cal Wilson 

One of the things Cal Wilson has loved most about having a family is starting their very own Christmas traditions.

Guys, I don't want to be the one to bring this up, but it's totally nearly Christmas. It's so close you can make complete strangers cry in shops by loudly declaring, ''I had all my presents bought, wrapped and under the tree by the end of October''.

One of the things I've loved about moving to Melbourne and having a family is starting our own Christmas traditions. Like always getting our Christmas tree from the same place - which is up in the roof. I love our Aldi Christmas tree - $50, robust, authentic enough to fool a drunk possum, but mostly importantly, devoid of actual pine needles. As much as I love the smell, as soon as they dry out and hit the floor pine needles turn into tiny foot javelins. It's as though the Christmas-tree fairy is getting her revenge for having the top branch jammed up her skirt.

As kids, we never left anything out for Santa or Rudolph, but I've loved doing that with my son. The last thing that happens on Christmas Eve is me drinking the glass of milk, and crumbling cracker crumbs onto the kitchen floor (because when you only have hooves, it's very hard to be dainty with a biscuit, obviously).

I also love hosting Christmas at our place and getting to cook a turkey. The secret is to soak the turkey overnight in brine (thank you, Julie Goodwin, you peach of a woman). We immerse the plucked corpse in an Esky in the bathroom, which, if you're not expecting it, does look horribly like a crime scene. It's either going to be the best Christmas dinner ever, or someone's getting arrested.

Another tradition we follow is the acquiring of the Santa photo - and it needs to be a good one. Who can forget the horror of my nieces getting their photo with a lady Santa, a genial Mother Christmas? As lovely as she was, it just wasn't the same - like when you watch a movie and instead of Alec Baldwin, they've cast Billy or Stephen.

For the past four years we've made the trek out to Westfield for its superior, shiny sleigh Santa setting, but this year we visited a shopping centre that's a bit more fancy.

Unfortunately, we didn't go there early enough, and nothing slows time so much as waiting in line for a Santa photo. By the time it was our turn, everyone'd had at least one birthday, and Santa had visibly aged.

Four-year-old was quite happy waiting; I was the one losing my mind. It was all I could do not to heckle the mother who'd spent 10 actual minutes trying to hand Father Christmas the screaming three-year-old attached to her waist like a limpet.

I do get it: you want to get the perfect Santa photo of your kids. Me, too. One year, we realised Digby's pants were way too short, and I had to buy him a new pair of jeans while we were queuing up. Luckily every baby in front of us was running through their lengthy objections to the dude in the red suit, so I had time to run into Target and buy emergency trousers.


Each year my son's been remarkably relaxed about chatting to Father Christmas, so he's yet to do the spontaneous Edvard Munch scream face that seems to be favoured by the under fives.

But there really should be two lanes for the Santa photo: the express lane for the kids who are unfazed by/genuinely happy to see Santa, and the trauma/weeping lane for the kids who have looked into the face of hell and seen it is wearing a white beard and a hat.

There should also be a time limit for how long you get to persuade your wailing child that Santa isn't going to kill him/her. You get five minutes, then a bell rings and you have to leave the line, and take the option of getting your kid's face photoshopped onto an elf.

To his credit, Santa was warm and lovely to every kid, whatever their frame of mind/state of nappy/volume. And actually the best part of waiting in the queue was hearing Santa attempt to decipher the answers to ''What would you like for Christmas?'' ''A wrong-size Caitlin''; ''a Dordy and a Magginfarm'' and then, the truly heartbreaking request: ''I want the Doggies to win a flag.''

If I'd thought about it sooner, I should have started the Christmas tradition of telling my son Santa is the Flight Centre pilot mannequin, and just get his photo taken with that. There's always next year. In the meantime, all our presents are bought, wrapped and under the tree. Yours …?