This is the final episode in my Family Christmas Traditions series where I have asked a number of my fellow South African bloggers to share their traditions over the Christmas holiday and Festive Season.
Cherralle from My Daily Cake
Christmas in the Cape Flats
When I saw Carly running a series on Christmas traditions, it evoked my earliest memories of Christmas as a child growing up in Cape Town. How different our Christmas is now!
I grew up in Cape Town, in the ‘south’, in a typical coloured community. You always had an auntie walking around with ‘sool kous’, it was completely normal to borrow sugar, onions from each other, and you communicated over the fence. There were always children running around barefoot. and any parent can pick a child and send them to the shop. You might get a 50 cent for your efforts. We had ‘ruffians’ around, however, they kept to their business and pretty much left the community and its children alone. Those were happy times (or maybe I have selective memory).
Now let me get back to Christmas.
You would wake up on Christmas morning, and wish everyone in the house a Merry Christmas. It’s typically a full house as family visit and sleepover at each other’s places. We did not have cars during those times, so you pretty much slept over where you were spending Christmas day. You then put on your Christmas clothes. Not just any clothes, brand new clothes, bought in December (maybe with a Lay-bye) and you wear it for the first time that day. One of the highlights is when all the kids venture into the street to show off their new clothes to each other! Then it’s off to church for Christmas service.
After church, you do your ‘Merry Christmas’ in the neighbourhood. You gather a group of friends, and you go around house by house, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and you get money. One or two rands each. Like ‘trick or treating’ in the States where you get sweets, but instead, you get money. Afterwards, I would return home for our family Christmas lunch and a present. It was ‘a’ present (one gift only but I did not mind at all). On boxing day we all take a train (parents and kids alike) to Muizenberg beach with leftovers and egg/polony sandwiches.
Currently, we live in Joburg and our Christmases are usually small.
We spend Christmas morning having a special breakfast at home and exchange gifts. Our gifts are all lined up under the Christmas tree (that we only bring out on the Christmas morning as little hands cannot wait!). We then attend church, and return home to a Christmas lunch, then relax for the rest of the day. I am becoming more conscious of what we do so we can establish our own traditions as a family. All in all, I cherish my own memories as a child and look forward to setting new traditions for my family.
Thank you Carly, for this awesome series!
Thanks so much, Cherralle. I love the reflection on the past and the difference between then and now. I too feel an acute desire to create special traditions for my girls as they won’t get to experience Christmas as I did as a child. Thanks for taking part lovely.
Rebecca from In These stilettos
So here is our tradition: I am Muslim, as are my husband and children, so at home we do not “celebrate Christmas”. My family, however, is Christian. I believe it is very important to raise the boys knowing and respecting all the world’s religions and beliefs. I still buy gifts for my family members, but I do not expect them to give any to me.
At Christmas time, my mum waits to finish the tree until my boys are home to help her hang all the last ornaments and decorations.
Growing up, Christmas in my family was a huge affair. All of my mum’s four siblings would travel from various Southern African countries back to my Gran’s house in Zimbabwe. Christmas eve is ALWAYS spent doing last-minute wrapping and fighting over sellotape and scissors. My mum and sister are pedantic about wrapping. Their gifts are ornately decorated with ribbons, berries and twine. Mine, on the other hand, look like a dogs breakfast).
Santa comes no matter what your age.
Even at 30-something I still wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas day to open my stocking. To see my boys open stockings from “Mama Claus” is so so special to me. Christmas breakfast is usually a more simple affair of yoghurts, muesli, fruit, pastries and of course mince pies. Usually, before lunch the family attacks all the presents under the tree. The youngest in the family has to play “postman” and hands out everyone’s gifts. Heaven help you if you tear any of the wrapping paper!!
The rest of the day is spent preparing for Christmas dinner.
The selected cooks being in the kitchen. Everyone else is usually swimming, napping or stealing Christmas chocolates. Christmas Dinner consists of chicken, turkeys, Ham (which we stay FAAAR away from J ), roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots and of course stuffing. Dessert is Christmas cake, mince pies and with the younger generation ice-cream. The Dinner table is a grand affair. My florist mother doing all the centrepieces. Gran’s best silverware is out. And each side plate typically has a “little” gift on it. Woollies chocolate balls ALWAYS feature scattered on the table.
After Dinner, its games time! Charades and balderdash and the card game “21”. We have a less polite name for it. All these are always played.
Boxing Day is spent with friends visiting and is typically always outside by the pool.
I was so glad that Rebecca submitted her tradition because I’m very mindful of the fact that whilst South Africa celebrates the Christmas holiday there are so many people in this country who are not Christian. I was curious to see how people from the different religions spend their time over this festive season when they are bombarded with the Christian celebration. Rebecca and I are both from Zim so I can identify with her Zimbabwean Christmas. It‘s so similar to how I spent mine as a child. Thanks so much for this Rebecca.
My Family Christmas Traditions
The idea for this post came about when I started thinking about what exactly are my family’s Christmas traditions? I was starting to feel a little bit of panic and anxiety thinking that I don’t actually have any.
Growing up in Zimbabwe, as Rebecca said, Christmas was very family orientated. My sister and I alternated Christmas between our Mom and Dad.
Mom’s family Christmas was always crazy.
There were always aunties, uncles and cousins and we would try our best to stay up and wait to catch Father Christmas! Clearly our parents knew all they had to do was wait us out before carting us to bed. Christmas morning my Grandpa would sit by the tree and hand out presents one at a time, drawing out the agony and just making it as fun as possible. After he passed the role of ‘wearing the Santa hat and handing out the presents’ fell to whoever was the host that year.
After the lengthy Christmas present ceremony, we would attempt to tidy up and then prepare for lunch! We’d use every available table and chair to create one long dining table which would then be filled with food, crackers, decor and most importantly – festive family love and noise!
Christmas with my dad.
Christmas with my Dad and step-mum was very similar if a little less in terms of the numbers! We would still the do the present opening ceremony the same way, with Dad handing out the presents one by one. The main difference was that we would often spend it away camping or away with family friends! One year we used small branches from a Msasa tree to create a Christmas tree. Another year was spent in a soaking wet tent for about 10 days! That’s one holiday none of us will ever forget!?
If we weren’t away, Boxing Day with Dad was spent visiting friends and hopping from one festive friendly home to the other over the whole of the Kadoma and Chegutu area where we grew up. It was always a fun day! I miss that.
The memories I have are all filled with family, laughs, love and chaos!
What is the reality of Christmas Traditions For Us Now?
The last few years our Christmas plans did not go according to plan. As I said above, I was starting to feel like I was letting my kids down as they don’t have that same kind of crazy family feel. Thanks to “Bob aka Mugabe” most of my cousins and sisters are spread out all over the world. This is typical for most of us who grew up in Zimbabwe.
What I realized reading everyone’s posts was that it’s not about what it used to be. It’s what you make of it now and how you make it happen.
This year we are having my Mom come spend Christmas with us in our home in South Africa. She flies in from Zim next week and we are already counting the days! No doubt, Christmas Eve will be spent wrapping gifts because I am always so bad at doing that in advance!
Christmas Traditions That Stayed
We always get the girls to layout a cup of milk and a carrot for Rudolf. Santa gets a beer and some biscuits or Biltong (a tradition I have carried over from my childhood). Once the girls are in bed and asleep, I generally create a “snow” footprint track to the tree. Incongruous really as it’s due to be about 30 degrees on Christmas Day! The magic of belief, with the aid of baby powder!
On Christmas morning, the girls wake up super early to discover all the presents under the tree! My husband will don the Santa Hat and distribute the gifts one at a time, just as it was for me as a child, another tradition I’ve carried over.
The day itself will be spent with the girls playing with their new toys, swimming and just spending a lazy day at home whilst Mom and I cook lunch. Lunch will be late afternoon this year because we will wait for some of my husband’s family from Joburg to get to us.
The family, fun, love and festivity will all be there.
A new dimension that has become an integral part of our lives will be Skyping family in Zim, the UK, Australia and New Zealand (and South Africa as we immigrated in June 2018). Whilst it will never make up for the chaos of my childhood, at least modern technology helps bridge the gap a little!
Whatever you end up doing, I pray you spend it with family and friends, remember that it’s more about the giving than the receiving, and if you are travelling, please stay safe on the roads!
Merry Christmas everyone and thanks so much to everyone who was part of this unexpected series.
If you missed the other two posts in this series, please do have a look: