My upbringing was stranger than most. For starters, I was homeschooled until I was 10. You know those stereotypical homeschool freaks they show at the beginning of mean girls.. Yeah me. Okay so maybe I wasn’t a full blown freak, but hippie would definitely be the word. I wore all the colourful charity shop clothes going, ate little to no sugar and went on nature walks everyday. And it was great. Me and my sister could finish ‘school’ at 12pm and spend the rest of the day building dens in the garden or making up shows to perform to our parents and friends.
It wasn’t just the homeschooling that made us hippies though, my parents brought many other weird and wonderful aspects to the Upchurch household. Being the generous caring people they are, our house was always open to anyone who needed it. We had ‘Mennonites’ from all around the world stay with us whilst they did their London tourist thing, sometimes as many as 12 people at once for weeks on end. My first boyfriend was a 9 year old American Mennonite (beautiful times ❤️). We also had a few of my parents’ more interesting friends staying for longer periods of time. You could never be entirely sure who you might find in the house on any given day, maybe a German family, maybe a homeless man..
But one of the most special traditions we had as a family, and one that has stayed with me to this day, was celebrating Jewish festivals. No, we are not Jewish. So why do we celebrate Jewish festivals? I really have no idea. All I know is that once you forget the whole being Jewish thing they are majorly fun. We would eat apples and honey on rosh hashana, build a tent in our garden out of sticks and leaves and eat under it for sukkot, have a family dinner with singing and dancing every Friday for Shabbat, and put on a massive meal with all of our friends every Easter time for Passover.
This year my parents decided to go away in the campervan for the Easter weekend (of course we have a campervan) and I was slightly sad that we wouldn’t get to celebrate Passover. Then I realised I had been presented with a fabulous opportunity to do Passover my way… I love a regular dinner party more than most people so the idea of doing a Passover one was very exciting. We invited 12 friends, bought lamb and matzah and many wines, and got everyone round a table in their finest clothes (and Caribbean shirts). Generally in Passover one person reads out a script and everyone else takes it in turns to reply. So naturally we made the newbie to the group be the host. (He will probably never speak to us again now we have revealed how special we are). We then got everyone to eat parsley dipped in salt water, roasted eggs, horseradish and charoseth (a dutty looking mush made from apples nuts and wine).
Now usually Passover is quite a civilised affair, a few glasses of wine must be drunk whilst leaning to the left, but tipsy is the highest form of partay it would reach. However we decided to spice it up. Instead of using a drop of wine to represent each plague, we made everyone do a shot of wine. That’s 10 shots. Let’s just say some people were more than merry before dinner had been served…
In my typical kitchen failure fashion I gave the lamb 2 hours less than it should’ve had, meaning a dinner of potatoes and veg was served whilst we awaited lamb to cook itself. But boy was it damn fine when it was finally done. After all of the foods, the Passover tradition is for the child to search the house for the hidden matzah. With there being no children we sent the littlest of us off to look for unleavened bread whilst myself and a friend danced around the living room and sang Jewish songs ‘And the trees of the field shall clap their hands.. Lai lai lai lai lai’. People appreciated it, trust. For the entirety of the meal we had left an empty chair for Elijah in case he decided to turn up. He hadn’t up to this point, surprisingly enough, so we ran down the road shouting ‘ELIJAH’ for good measure. No luck. Maybe next year. In Jerusalem.
After the whole Jewish palava was done and dusted the night turned into one of our standard Upchurch house parties. Parties have always been a legendary affair in the Upchurch household but they have evolved somewhat from the school days. Back when we were 17 we would drink all the Smirnoff ice and Caribbean twist, think we were hilariously drunk, jump on the trampoline and video each other. Don’t do any of that anymore. Now we drink all of the rum and strawpedos, get ridiculously drunk, throw eggs at each other on the trampoline, and take many videos. Okay wait.. Maybe our parties are still exactly the same. Just with the addition of a semi-civilised dinner, and the subtraction of chav gatecrashers. Thankfully this means that (usually) no windows or doors get broken. Even though the night ended with the usual dancing on the table and passing out on sofas, doing the Passover meal made it special. My parents may have brought us up in a different (some may say slightly crazy) way, but I’m so grateful they did. If only so I can freak my friends out by quoting Jewish phrases and forcing them to eat bitter herbs.