We wake up late and scramble to get dressed. My partner Steve is of Greek heritage and celebrating the New Year with his parents and siblings are an important part of starting a new year. January 1st is not only the first day of a New Year, it is also St. Basil’s Day, a forefather of the Greek Orthodox church and a man who is remembered for his generosity to the poor. The day is celebrated by cutting St Basil’s cake, the highlight of which is hoping you get the gold (or silver) coin that has been carefully wrapped and placed inside before baking.
There is a strict ritual associated with how the cake is cut and distributed. A piece of cake is first cut for the house and then pieces are cut according to seniority in the household. Steve’s brother Con and his family are away on holiday, so it is just us and his brother Jim and family who are gathered around the dining table at his parents house. It takes a bit of prodding and probing to find the coin and as it turns out it is Chrissa (Con’s wife) who has struck gold today. We give Chrissa a call to wish them for the New Year and give her the good news. We hear the protests of her youngest who had given strict instructions she wanted to be the one to get lucky this year :)! We stay awhile chatting to Steve’s parents and then sit down to lunch and more philosophical discussions.
I am reminded of how similar Greek customs are to those of my own heritage. In Sri Lanka, the traditional New Year begins at a time determined by astrological calculations and cultural rituals are strictly adhered to in the villages. These rituals are conducted at strict times and include lighting the hearth to make kiribath (milk rice), to eating the first bite and conducting business transactions. Fireworks across the city remind you of the auspicious time for each ritual and it is a day of celebration with family and friends in the neighbourhoods tucking into traditional sweets such as Kavum (oil cakes) and Kokis (crispy sweetmeats we inherited from the Dutch).
The warm weather of the previous evening has thankfully continued on to the morning and Steve and I make our way to Doll’s Point at Cooks Park for an afternoon of relaxing by the water and taking photographs. I am planning to enter a street photography competition in London and I chose this park to take pictures in because it depicts the diversity of life Sydney, with different cultural communities coming together to enjoy everything that is quintessentially Australian. On a warm sunny day you can find kids playing volleyball, enjoying a game of cricket or football, mums chatting to each other while dad cooks the barbecue. The entire family will go down for a swim and the cultural mix is again evident in the diverse styles of swim wear on display! It is a busy place, the ocean and beach separated from the adjoining park by a footpath where mums with prams share the space with joggers and kids on scooters. Against this hive of activity is the incredible backdrop of the world famous Sydney skyline! Beach life in Sydney is a wonderful example of a public domain where people are spontaneously interacting with their surroundings, allowing many opportunities for candid photography which is what street photography is all about!
We stop to chat to a gathering of Fijian men playing carom, a game I am familiar with from the sub continent. They invite us to have a game but it is getting late and we say our goodbyes and make our way back to our car. It has been a lovely start to the New Year and finally a sense of relaxation takes over. The holidays are almost over for Steve as he goes back to work next week but I have a little more time to enjoy the holidays and hopefully get a bit of writing done..
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at anytime.” Mark Twain