Christmas in Africa

There is something special about this time of year. No matter what your religious denomination, I think most people look forward to the Christmas season. Not only because you finally get to wind down and relax and spend some much-needed quality time with loved ones, but also because there is a certain undeniable magic in the air the closer the calendar moves to the 25th of December. It’s visible in the smiles of the people who pass you in the shopping centre, the excitement on children’s faces whenever a rotund man in red asks them if they’ve been good, the sparkling fairy lights wherever you look and the sing-a-long carols filling the air. Christmas is a near-global state of goodwill.
And so, with the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” revolving in my head, I can’t help but think how differently Christmas is celebrated around the world. I’ve had two white Christmases so far – one in Germany and one in Wales. The first was spent on top of a mountain in the Alps, with sauerkraut and game meat for our Christmas lunch later that afternoon; the other with the in-laws, opening presents and stuffing ourselves with a roast pork dinner. They mostly fit the traditional picture of Christmas as it is presented to millions of people around the world: snow falling softly, a fireplace burning in the background, family members surrounding the Christmas tree, carolers knocking on the door.
In South Africa, we do things a little differently. In our family, we open our presents on Christmas Eve and go to church on Christmas morning. And because it is high summer here, most people go down to the coast for their holiday. The day is therefore usually spent outside, at the beach or in the pool, with the traditional roast lunch replaced by a braai (BBQ). Although this may sound strange to someone from the northern hemisphere, to me, this is exactly what Christmas should be like. A white Christmas is beautiful, but a warm Christmas is home.

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