Halloween makes way for Thanksgiving and Christmas … but in Australia November kicks off with Melbourne Cup Day: Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA
In one day here in LA the shops switch over from Halloween mode to “baking season” and, of course, “The Holidays” (as in Christmas, Hanukkah or Chanukkah). The pumpkin farms make way for Christmas trees—or holiday trees and the three-month long holiday session moves up a gear.
Meanwhile … in Australia the first Tuesday of November is Melbourne Cup Day. It’s the “horse race that stops a nation”.
It is by far my favourite day, so this week I thought I’d share with my American readers what Melbourne Cup Day is all about. (I think it would make a great episode for my Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom).
To start, if you hadn’t already gathered, Melbourne Cup is a horse race. As the name suggests it is run in Melbourne and if you live in Melbourne you have a DAY OFF work (that’s right, a public holiday for a horse race—don’t you love Australia?!). If you live in Sydney, like I did, then you either host or attend a Melbourne Cup function of some kind. Between my girlfriend and I we always hosted a lunch.
The rules of engagement are pretty clear.
This is a rule. You must serve and drink Champagne at a Cup Day function. The boys may drink beer from a bottle.
My theme was traditionally “hats and heels”. A hat, fascinator and dress are also compulsory. If you’re going to make an effort to dress up, today is the day.
I don’t know if you do a “sweep” here in the US. It’s basically where you put every horse racing into a cup and blindly draw names. There are usually few sweeps at different price ranges—say $2, $5 and $10. Then you work out the winnings according to winners for coming 1st, 2nd and 3rd; last place gets their money back. So if you put in $30 to the $10 sweep, you can draw three horses. The fun of it is you could draw a good horse—or you could draw a dud!
Lunch is served to a group of ladies, given the blokes are working hard at work. Even if you work, many of my working friends will try to get the day off so they can still join the festivities, they’re that important.
It is compulsory that the live telecast of the race be screened on your TV and everyone must critique the “fashion on the field”. Remember this is the day to make your mark on the fashion so you’re opening yourself up for scrutiny—it is possibly more serious than the red carpet on the Oscars.
The race itself
Literally the race that stops the nation, everyone stops to watch the race. Even if you’re not interested in horse racing for the rest of the year, everyone is captivated—and cheers for their horse to win.
Functions generally start at 12:00 and the race starts around 3:20. School typically finishes at either 3:00 or 3:30 clearly interfering with the race. So the kids get booked into After-school care (the busiest of the year!) and the Dads are on pick-up duty at 5:30. The older kids get their own way home because this is Australia and they catch public transport.
IMPORTANT: Unlike LA the race being raced signals more partying, time to open another bottle of Champagne or turn the music on to start dancing. It does not signal it is time to go home.
Then, when the kids and dads get home, the second leg of the function starts. This is usually a smaller version of the lunch as only typically a few friends kick on. The dads chug down 50 beers to catch up to their wives and the kids are fed dinner.
At sometime around 9:00 or 10:00 everyone has had a truck load to drink and walks or cabs home.
Celebrating Melbourne Cup Day in LA
This year I thought about doing a lunch on the Tuesday but it’s already Wednesday in Australia so it just wouldn’t work. And, most people have to pick up their kids because there’s little to no public transport so I doubted it would work.
In a fit of desperation, I texted a couple of friends to see if they’d like to have a glass of Champagne with me after school. I know, it’s a Monday night but it’s still Melbourne Cup Day!
Thankfully for me they answered my call and came over. Then my Australian friends FaceTimed me from their lunch. It was so cool that I got to introduce my friends to each other—not that anyone could hear what anyone was saying! We posed for photos together and I got to watch the race with them. The wonders of technology. How fun.
The day after the night before and life is back to normal once again. And back in LA it’s finally cooling down meaning we might get to experience Fall rather than summer. How novel!
Enjoy your week,
xx It Started in LA xx