Shalom Mennonite Church has asked us for information about Christmas in South Africa. For us, Christmas is a time when we try to simulate our own culture's Christmas traditions but adapt them to South Africa and to summer. We buy a tree every year that can serve as a Christmas tree (gardenias have been our favourites),
Siya, Moses, and Isaac bringing in the Christmas tree
Jesse under the decorated tree
we decorate Christmas cookies,
and we hang stockings.
This year will be the third year that we have spent with our friend Melanie Quinn, a Mennonite missionary in Botswana. We cook a fairly traditional meal although one year we did have roast warthog leg and we are able to have vegetables fresh from our garden since it is summer. Here we are with our own Christmas tradition of the "stinky meal" on Christmas eve: chips and salsa, stinky cheeses, salami and other stinky things.
It is true that we spend a lot of time at our friend's pool--a Christmas tradition that we quite like.
We have asked some friends about traditions here in kwaXhosa (the place of the Xhosa people). The two biggest special things at Christmas are that everyone gets new clothes and that a lot of people repaint their house. The colours of houses in the rural areas are pink, green, blue, turquoise, and yellow. Some have a black strip around the bottom and this would also be refreshed for Christmas. For weeks before Christmas, you see people leaving town with big buckets of paint, often carrying them on their heads. Can you pick out the different colours of houses in these pictures? What colour house is in the bottom picture that I didn't list?
On Christmas day, kids get into their new clothes and then go in groups to the houses in their area. At each house they are given something to eat. At some it is a full meal of chicken, samp and beans or rice, and vegetables. At others they will get sugary milky tea and biscuits. Some houses will give them chips and sweets. Two things that were traditionally done to make Christmas special were that curry powder (called "Rajah") was added to the rice to make it yellow and that kids got jam on their bread. Even now when these things are everyday occurrences, they are sure to be done for Christmas.
Food cooking at a rural Xhosa homestead
At Isaac and Moses' old preschool, they did a Christmas play every year complete with donkey, shepherds, wise men, and gifts. Here is the year in which Isaac was a wise man and Moses was a shepherd. At the end they sing the chorus "oh come let us adore him" in English and in Xhosa. In Xhosa, the words are "Yizani nibulise. Yizani nibulise. Yizani nibulise. UKrestu Inkosi"