Christmas in South Africa

Day 5: Around the World in 12 Days


From the Holy Land we make our way south once again -- about as far south as you can go before reaching Antartica. South Africa beckons! Similar to our first stop in New Zealand, we find ourselves in a summer Christmas, complete with all the contradictions like listening to Jim Reeves' "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" while lying on the beach or barbecuing outdoors (called a braai). Juxtaposed with the full-on commercial side of Christmas -- decorations, shopping, etc. -- is a general respect for the fact that this is the celebration of the birth of Christ. Churches are full, whether for midnight services on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, and outdoor candlelight caroling is not uncommon. Because South Africa is a blend of indigenous, British, and Dutch culture in its origins, there is a healthy blend of traditions carried over from the various people groups. Santa Claus is also called Father Christmas, or in Afrikaans (derived from Dutch), Sinterklaas or Kersvader. Gifts are exchanged under a decorated Christmas tree, and the holiday is seen as a special time to be with family. There is the traditional feast which often includes roast turkey or duck, beef, suckling pig, mince pies, saffron rice and vegetables, and Christmas pudding or a traditional South African dessert called Malva pudding.

December 26, as in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, is called Boxing Day. It is generally agreed that the name originated with the tradition of servants and tradesmen receiving Christmas gifts, called Christmas boxes, from their employers. Today it is a bank holiday and, in South Africa, a great day to spend at the beach with friends and family.

From South Africa, Geseënde Kersfees!