Need some distraction for this 3rd of November? Yup, me too.
1/ It’s Melbourne Cup Day!
OK, so for those of you outside Australia who may have never heard of the Melbourne Cup, it might help to think Royal Ascot or The Kentucky Derby. If those ring no bells, here’s a quick story to illustrate the widespread cultural impact of this fairly unique phenomenon.
First up, a bit of Aus history. Thanks to racing/gambling traditionally being a male dominated pastime, in the 60’s the organisers of ‘The Cup’ decided that the hook needed to attract more of “the ladies” was a womens fashion competition. To make the competition worthwhile *wink wink* some pretty decent prizes – a new car continues to be the main hook – were in the offing. Despite competitive gendered aesthetics going off the boil in most areas of society, race day fashion competitions persist, and as such these competitions have pretty much dictated, and slowly evolved, what women, and now men, might wear to the races.
As a hook for racing it worked incredibly well; it helped make race day into a combination celebration – with a fashion parade, a food and wine festival and of course the horse races. Prior to that point, conservative cultural norms and racing etiquette fairly strictly controlled what was considered “proper” to wear to a horse race, and although Fashions on the Field has evolved the wardrobe of attendees, it still tilts towards the conservative. It’s been pretty consistently great for milliners though, because even when people stopped wearing hats for a bit there they never went out of style on race day.
That wasn’t the story, just a long preamble. Hey, we’ve got time to kill, right?
Back when I worked 9-5 as the Drafting and Design officer for Lotterywest, Melbourne Cup was a free lunch day (from memory it was relatively unusual in the public service, but then Lotterywest is a unique quango) . There would be a catered lunch for employees along with a screening of The Melbourne Cup live at 12pm, as in WA we’re 3 hours behind the state where the race is run at 3pm. Being an organisation of over 130 staff at that time, with a foyer and conference room that could fit about half of the staff in at once, we had to eat in 2 sittings. But this is The Melbourne Cup – it’s your right as an Aussie punter to see the whole damn race! To get around this, those in the second sitting were treated to a delayed screening of the race at 1pm, after the change over, and the staff who watched the race live at the first sitting were warned not to share spoilers. Just like in offices all over the nation (except in Victoria where the day is a bona fide public holiday) there were informal sweeps and prizes awarded for the best hat/outfit worn on the day.
Like many others I’ve stopped watching the “race that stops a nation” because, well, gambling and horse
cruelty racing ain’t my bag, and after 7 races out of the country it was an easy habit to kick. However, getting dressed up and quality millinery are very much my thing, so I still support everyone’s right to frock, feast and a long lunch, especially today when my friends in Victoria are finally free to enjoy their first public holiday since their seemingly interminable lockdown ended.
2/ It’s Benvenuto Cellini’s birthday!
Because of course it is!
Benne, the noted goldsmith, street brawler and author is best known because he took the time to record his own life in The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (link to Project Gutenberg download page for the book, recommended if you fancy your boastful ghostwritten tales from an actual Renaissance man.) The Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia disagree on his actual birth date but I’m going with Wikipedia. My recommendation? Read Britannica for the more cohesive and shorter essay on the bloke, and see Wikipedia for the pictures 😉
3/ It’s Independence of Cuenca Day in Ecuador!
Cuenca became the third city to declare independence from Spanish colonial rule on the 3rd of November in 1820 (two years before civil war would free all of Ecuador from Spain). It joined the cities Quito and Guayaquil who had already declared their freedom from the colonisers.
The holiday on the 3rd in Cuenca also follows nationwide celebrations for the Day of the Dead in Ecuador, and is seen as the culmination of these festivities in this, the nation’s third-biggest city.
It is also noted for the art fairs that take place at this time, which attract local, national and international craftperson and artist exhibitors. There are also street parades and and fireworks in the evening, which sounds like a bang-up celebration to me! (Pun definitely intended.)
It’s a day to celebrate the city and its independence from oppressive undemocratic rule, something we can all get behind today.