words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “Family tradition”

Is there still magic in your day?

IMG_4063As a kid I used to love it when mum cooked a roast chicken for dinner. The skin would be really crispy and she would make gravy from all the lovely juices. There would usually be roast potatoes too — one of my favourite foods. It was always such a special dinner, and usually saved for a special treat.

What made it extra special was the wishbone the next day.

This particular part of a chicken can make all your wishes come true.

According to my research on google (and who knows how accurate that may be), this tradition is thousands of years old, stemming from the Etruscan (ancient Italians) people’s belief that a fowl could predict the future. The birds were placed into a circle divided into twenty wedges, with each wedge representing a letter of the Etruscan alphabet. Grain was placed in each wedge and scribes would note which letters of the alphabet the chicken would eat from. The high priest would then use the order of letters to solve questions and predict the future.

Even in death, the birds had powers. The wishbone (or collarbone) was thought to be sacred and was dried out in the sun. People would gather around the dried bone and make a wish. As tradition spread to the Romans, they began to break the bones with two ‘wishers’ each pulling on the sides of the bone with their little fingers. Tradition says that the person left with the larger piece was to have their wish granted.

Thousands of years later, my brother, sister and I would argue over whose turn it was to pull on the bones. Usually the ‘loser’ of this particular game of tug-o-war would be outraged: “it’s not fair” or “you pulled when I wasn’t ready” or “you used too much force”.

Honestly, I don’t know why my mother bothered to keep the jolly bone. It was often worse when my Nan saved us a wishbone. For some reason, her wishbone was extra special. And two pieces of bone never did divide into three children easily.

A few weeks ago I made a roast chicken for the family. It wasn’t the first roast chicken that I’d made, but I realised that I had never introduced my kids to the tradition of a wishbone.

IMG_4065Why was that?

I realised that when supermarkets introduced BBQ chickens (complete with wishbones) to their shelves, the humble roast chicken lost some of its shine. And over time, the wishbone lost its magical properties.

It made me wonder about other special things that blend into the ordinary, once we begin to take them for granted.


  • Our children’s (sometimes incessant) chatter
  • A rainy day
  • The first coffee of the day
  • The comfort of our bed at night
  • The warmth of a crackling fire on a wintery day
  • The sound of birds chirping early in the morning
  • Hand-written mail that is just for you
  • Taking off shoes that have pinched your feet all day
  • The soft glow as the sun goes down
  • The smell of freshly mown grass.

This week, I made another roast chicken and I explained to my kids about the wish bone. (I also told them about three children I used to know who fought over the bones!) The kids were quite excited to make their wish.

After a bit of working out how to hold it, and which angle was the better one to pull on, they snapped the bone made their wishes. Of course, one of them was not particularly happy at the outcome. Overall, however they were both excited about the magic of a dried up bit of bone.

I wonder, are there any ‘once magical’ things in your life that you now take for granted?




Nerissa Bentley is a Melbourne-based freelance writer at Write to the Point Communications. This blog is just one of the things she writes in her spare time.

She also specialises in writing for the health and well-being market. As well as writing thoroughly researched articles, she can provide assistance with press releases, copywriting, editing, proofreading and communication strategies.

So if you would like her to help you, contact her at writetothepoint@hotmail.com


Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

What does your Christmas tree look like? Does it look like one fit for a designer store? Is it a real tree or an artificial one? Is it colour-themed, or is it a hotchpotch of different decorations?

Yesterday was the 1st of December so according to our family tradition, it was the day to put up the Christmas tree. As part of our tradition, we put on some Christmas music, break out a few Christmas treats and get to work.

My husband assembles the tree, puts on the lights and the kids and I decorate it — along with the mantelpiece. Yes, we are blessed with a mantelpiece, which is lovely for Christmas time.

Each year in the lead-up to Christmas, when the shops are filled with fancy decorations and themed Christmas trees, I think, “I must buy some new decorations for the tree”. But, as I pull out all of the decorations we have when it’s time to set it up, I can’t bring myself to throw any of them away. So really, what is the point of new stuff?

On first glance, our tree is a bit haphazard. There is no obvious theme. It is not colour co-ordinated and there are decorations on it (and on the mantelpiece) that have seen better days.

So why don’t I just throw them away?

Because they mean something to our family.

Some of them are lovely, quality decorations given to me over the years by some very dear friends. Each year, as I hang them up, I think of them.

Some of them are the first decorations my husband and I bought as a married couple, which we bought for our tiny, little (live) tree. Sadly the tree has died, but the golden bells and little apples are still going strong and always bring a smile to our face.

We also have baubles with our names on them and a decoration that represents each of us. Trev — the bearer of gifts; Nerissa — baker extraordinaire; Josh — always our little boy; and Laura — our dancing princess. We even hang the decoration we bought for our dog when she was alive. Just another way to remember her.

Our family - in Christmas decorations

Our family – in Christmas decorations

But by far the most precious decorations (and also the most shabby), are the ones made by the kids. Our kids are (almost) 11 and 8 now, so their decoration-making skills have improved over the years. However, we still have decorations they made when they were toddlers. These consist of simple Christmas shapes, which they ‘coloured’, or pipe cleaners fashioned into some weird shapes.

We have decorations from their playgroup years, which include a nativity scene that Laura made (okay, it was me) complete with animals and a baby Jesus. (Don’t look too closely at the baby, as I had such a difficult time with him!)

We have umpteen Christmas wreaths ranging from the gold-painted, macaroni on a plate-variety, through to one with patty pans glued around the outside of it. One of the macaroni ones has hardly any macaroni left, but I still can’t throw it away. And needless to say, those patty pans have seen better days. We also have angels that hang on the tree, their wings being the hands of each of my children at the age of 3 or 4.

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Once they were old enough for school, my kids became better at making decorations. We have half a dozen or so ‘Christmas trees’ that the kids made at their Christmas clubs. Some more ‘loved’ (tatty) than others. We have a multitude of Santas, several reindeer and a sleigh! In fact, there is a section of our mantelpiece that is dedicated to ‘school Christmas craft’. And in another week or so, we will have more in our collection.

Some of our decorations incorporate a photo of the kids at a certain age, which is really cute, yet also serves to remind us just how many years have gone by!

Some of the decorations I remember making with the kids, and some of them I remember ooohing and aaahing over when they brought them home from school.

One of the most beautiful things about our collection of decorations is how they trigger conversations and memories.

“Remember when we made this?”

“Look how small your hands were!”

I can’t believe I thought that was a good job.”

“Look how cute you were.”

While many of them are old, and fit only for the scrap heap, I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Discarding them for something shinier and newer would be akin to discarding my children, their memories and their creativity. Every decoration on our tree has a special meaning and a special memory tied to it. It’s almost like a time capsule.

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

So if you are at our place this Christmas, don’t judge my tree by looks alone.

Yes, to the naked eye, our Christmas tree and surrounding decorations are a mish-mash of everything — nothing tying them together and no real theme.

But the truth is, the theme at our place each Christmas is family — something that is never out of fashion.

Merry Christmas xx

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