Christmas in South Africa

‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ or so the festive season song goes…
But what happens if you’re in the southern hemisphere and the chances of you having a white Christmas are as slim as you keeping ALL of your new year’s resolutions? What do you do? What do you eat? What so you drink? What are your typical traditions?

I was born in South Africa and didn’t know what it was like to experience a cold Christmas until the December of 1998. I had 25 years of hot Christmasses. I didn’t know the feeling of wrapping up warmly and drinking hot chocolate in-between my gift shopping or of indulging in gl├╝hwein whilst browsing German Christmas markets. I didn’t know what it was like waking up on Christmas morning and peering outside in the hope of seeing a scene from a winter wonderland, or going for a walk on Christmas day with a woolly scarf and hat and enjoying the crispness of the cold air.
My childhood Christmases consisted of waking up early (of course), drinking a cup of tea with a small dash of whiskey, opening presents and then eating breakfast while waiting for friends and family to arrive.
Once we had a full house, it was into the swimming pool for a quick dip before helping to prepare for lunch. We would have huge tiger prawns for starters, usually only 2 because of their size. This year was smoked salmon and prawn cocktail.
The men would then cook a few complete beef fillets on the barbecue (called a ‘braai’ here – it rhymes with eye if you can’t figure out how to pronounce it). So Christmas main course would be a chunk of beef fillet with salads and always wearing silly hats that popped out of the christmas crackers. The corny jokes that were inside the crackers were all read out, people would compare what little gifts they got inside their crackers and lots of talking, laughing and eating would follow. This year it was cold meats and salads rather than an outside braai.
Another dip in the swimming pool to allow the meat to settle and create space for the next course.
Dessert was always Christmas pudding, (a moist, cooked mixture of flour, sugar, raisins, saltanas, orange peel, apples and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg), steamed for over an hour, covered in brandy and lit before serving with custard and/or brandy butter. We would also have mince pies, small, round enclosed pastries with fruit mincemeat inside. Of course, there were always coins hidden inside for good luck. They used to be 5 cent pieces, this year they were Rand coins – must be inflation…
More relaxing and if you had strength to haul your full tummy down to the pool, another quick swim before tackling a variety of cheeses and biscuits and finally liqueurs (if you weren’t asleep yet). As you can imagine, a new years resolution was always either to go on diet or to start Christmas shopping earlier the next time around.

No matter where you are or who you spend Christmas with, it is a good time to remember those less fortunate than you. It’s a time to be thankful for what you’ve got, what you’re able to eat and drink and that you’re able to go to bed with a full tummy every night. It’s a time to appreciate friends and family, those you got to spend time with and those who were far away.
I hope whatever you did on Christmas day, you got to spend it with loved ones and had a fabulous day.

How do YOU spend Christmas? Tell me about your Christmas traditions…

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One Response to Christmas in South Africa

  1. Danilo says:

    "How do YOU spend Christmas?": With you. :)

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