For the last 4 or so years we have packed the kids into the car and driven north for an hour. We meet my sisters, and their families, at an orchard to pick our own cherries. We do it as close to Christmas as possible. Cherries are a traditional part of an Australian Christmas (I have a confession – I have only just worked this out, I don’t eat a lot of cherries, so just took no notice). It’s the height of summer for Christmas here.
We do have all the traditional snow scenes and so forth. Most movies depicting this time of year have at least one scene with people shivering, in front of a fire, cupping a warm egg nog or hot chocolate in their mitten clad hands. So we know this is the traditional way Christmas should be celebrated. We just don’t partake in these traditions, it’s far too hot. Here we wear thongs (flip-flops), t-shirts and shorts. We fire up the BBQ, head outside for a game of cricket or something similar. It’s too hot for most things that are known as traditionally Christmasy. So we need to forge our own traditions, do Christmas our way.
For my family, part of this now means getting in the car early on Christmas Eve or as close to as possible (my brother-in-law is a policeman, so with both of us being shift workers, we do it when we it suits both our families). We drive to the outskirts of this wonderful city, up into the hills, to pick your own cherries.
We found a new place last year. We had left in the afternoon. We were running late, my sister was running later, you know how it is with young ones and all the planning that is needed to get 3 small kids some place, juggling afternoon naps and all that. We just weren’t going to make it to our usual cherry orchard. It closes early on Christmas Eve. We also had another gripe about it, nothing serious, nothing to make us say we’d never go back. They run a bus down to where they want cherries picked from. We got stranded once and the bus took a couple of hours to come and pick us up, even after we rang to say we’d finished.
Last year, after we worked out there would be no cherry picking, that we were going to be just too late, the Pazzo saw a small sign off the main road that said U-pick cherries with an arrow underneath. We followed the arrow. We found a small, boutique cherry orchard, and it was open long enough for us to pick the cherries we’d come to get. It was small enough that a short walk down a slight hill got us to the cherries. It worked out to be cheaper too. Then and there we decided this is where we would pick cherries from now on.
On Wednesday, we arrived at 9:15am (had to be early, my brother-in-law was required at work in the afternoon). It was still closed (the problem with small is less internet exposure, or in this case none, we couldn’t find it at all, couldn’t call to check times or days or even if cherries were available. It was a risk, but we had contingency plans!). We were prepared to wait til 10, but I rang the number on their sign and their message said they opened at 9:00. Australia does work on relaxed time, sometimes, so at least we knew they were on their way. My sister was running 5 minutes later than us (the plan was to actually meet at 9:00). My other sister and mum were another 10 behind them. In the meanwhile the farmer had arrived and opened up. We let the kids loose in the orchard. There were games of tag, climbing up ladders, handstands, back ends, picking cherries, eating cherries, did I mention eating cherries? We tried the red cherries, the ones that are yellow in the middle and even the sour cherries.
We paid for our loot and headed to the reservoir for a quick snack. Cheezels, peanuts, biscuits, fizzy drink and lollies. 7 cousins all running together. It was great. It hasn’t worked quite like this before, but that’s a story for another day! Finally we headed home to finish up last minutes preparations for our Christmas Eve celebrations, the traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebrations without the snow!