South Africa is near and dear to our heart—and a lot of that we owe to the Myburghs, who made us feel very welcome in their country and shared their amazing Afrikaans traditions with us.  One of the things we really wished we got to experience there was Christmas, and thanks to them we now get to see what we’re missing out on! We present to you “Twelve Countries in Twelve Days of Christmas” Part 8: South Africa.

 

People play on a beach in Qingdao
What is a typical Christmas in South Africa like?

With 11 different national languages and cultures here in SA, it would be impossible to say that we all celebrate the same way, but one thing you will find for most…

It’s BEACH time!!! Christmas comes just after the end of every school year and it’s summer time! For 6 weeks, the schools, most businesses, construction and building companies, behind the scene bankers and accountants shut their doors, and everyone heads to the beautiful ocean that surrounds South Africa. Beach side vacation homes and camp grounds are booked even years in advance! Christmas for many isn’t spent at their home, so decorating isn’t usually more than a small tree that some will bring along to their campsite or holiday spot. “Father Christmas” brings his goods Christmas Eve day—and where he can, he actually shows up in person to hand them out and even watches as you open them up! When Christmas day arrives, its getting ready for a beautifully made dinner—even for the campers!

 

rock-lobster

What does the Christmas meal entail?

For many, a nice big leg of lamb with numerous side dishes of different salads, veggies, and breads, but for the campers, not before first having a big appetizer of rock lobster! Many beach campers, usually the men, spend much of their long camping holiday diving for a specific lobster native to this area. They compare their sizes with each others just like fishermen do with their fish. They boil many at a time over an open fire and will spend the next few days eating them—even when cold dipping them in south Africa’s famous Tangy Mayonnaise, which is sweet to the taste.

The tables are then decorated neatly with Christmas decor and of course, no one forgets to set a Christmas Cracker next to everyone’s place. Christmas Crackers are a decorated tube tied at each end with a bow. Before the meal begins, each opens their package by pulling a paper strip that makes a slightly smokey crack as it opens. Inside holds a paper crown which all must ware, confetti that shoots out, a paper blowing horn, and a small gift, that ranges anywhere from a pair of fingernail clippers or small flash light to a small toy. Everyone admires each others gift, blows their paper horn, and for the Christians of SA, the meal begins with prayer, holding hands around the table. Other area’s in SA, you will find large groups of people in the streets slaughtering sheep and other small animals for a feast also cooked on open fire.

 

What holiday music is played?

Everything that you would hear in America. Most radio stations play the same internationally famous music by North American and European artists, so the same Christmas jingles you find around there you will also find here. However, Affrikaans and other native cultural music is also infiltrating in.

 

What Christmas symbols describe South Africa best?

Father Christmas, small light covered trees, Christmas crackers, and toy filled shopping centers of course are all apart of the season, but South Africa is also filled with Christians of many faiths who remember the reason for the season in their own special ways. You won’t fail in finding filled stages and concert halls with Nativity Christmas plays. And amidst the hustle and bustle, you will always find those special few lending a heart and hand to those in need!