It is 11° C outside. The window shows me a world of wet, grey and bleary. The trees are brown and the rain drops hang and drip like the delicate diamonds that sit in the ring that my grandmother gave me last year. It sits loosely on my dark finger, silver and beautiful. There is a fire lit in the tv room. The Christmas tree lights are flashing and carols play like whispering white children in the background. I’m in England.
The Christmas traditions; mulled wine and cider, eggnog, hot chocolate, pub lunches, roasts, coats, gloves, scarfs, boots, a couch, Love Actually and a lover. It all makes sense here.
I find myself in Exeter. 3 – 4 hours out of London. I am surrounded by screech owls , sheep, cows, old white people and fields. Loads of fields.
How did I get here? My partner was born here, in rural England. His family home is here and so this is where we meet for Christmas every two years.
A week ago I was swimming in the sea, at home in Cape town, eating watermelon, drinking fresh Newlands spring water flavoured with mint from my home-grown mint plant. It was a month to Christmas. I live in Lakeside. I have a view of the mountain, the lake and if I stand on my tippy toes, I can see the sea.
Explain to me, educate my confused mind. The Christmas tree, the theme of a fat man in a huge warm costume, rain deers, snow, Turkey roasts, carols about snow and such. How do these things work for us?
Has it really taken me this long to think about it? Has it taken you this long to ask yourself why we follow things that were not designed for us? Have I really never wanted more? Wanted something that fits?
As South Africans there are so many structures that we fight. We were born fighting. We will always fight. It is in our nature, sadly or maybe not so sadly. Either way we have big mouths and even bigger fists and feet. We walk the walk, talk the talk and fight the fight.
This year alone we challenged authorities, time and time again and we have begun to force change and create structures that hopefully in time will work for South Africa and South Africans. In time too, we will reach a place where the fight is not divided by colour or class, but unified by a common want for a better more inclusive South Africa.
So what is Christmas for us? Why are we celebrating someone else’s version of a holiday when we are so VERY very good at creating our own holidays, public holidays and days off.
What is christmas for us? A time for family. what is family? The people who love you the most. What is giving? Sharing what you have, big or small. Is that Christmas for you? That about sums up Christmas for me and my family.
I think that we need to redesign Christmas in South Africa.
It has started, now all we need to do it support it. The vendors on the side of the road in my area sell Christmas trees that they make out of wood. Pine trees, the traditional trees, are aliens to our land. Buying pine trees means creating a market for foreign trees to be planted on our land. Support local, local is lekker, local is better. Buy local and plant your tree or go and cut down a pine tree. In my family we have a tree cutting tradition for Christmas.
Some ideas to help make a South African Christmas.
Keep things that little ones make, little brothers or sisters. Keep things that your kinds make at school. Put it on strings, hang it in the tree.
For years we put felt gnomes, knitted squares, finger knitted circles, anything that could be hung, my mom and dad would let me and my sister hang.
Buy decorations made by local crafts people. Beaded wire craft, wooden carvings. Make your own beach shell decorations, sea weed sprayed gold or silver or any colour that you like.
Last year I collected feathers from the Lake and sprayed them gold. I collected cape goose berries from my mom’s garden, carefully removed the husks and sprayed them gold.
Buy gift paper that shows South African images, sun, starts, protea, whales, landscapes. Use news paper to wrap your gifts and then personalise the gift with pictures or stickers.
Draw your cards or find cards that tell our Christmas story: sunshine, mountains, waves, corrugated iron, bright colours, white skin, brown skin, black skin.
I understand the culture of consuming, but consume in a way that celebrates us. Celebrate South Africa and South Africans. Force the shops to provide what we want.
Let England have it’s cold and grey and carols. Let Europe have the snow and shovels and boots. Let them do it on their own.
We have the sun, we have clear skies, we have beach fires, braai fires and tshisa nyama.
We have bring your family to the beach, we have bring your cooler box, bed and fridge to the beach. We have swim in the nude, swim in your costume, swim in your dress, swim in your jeans kind of people. We have culture and culture and more culture, we have colour and tradition and language.
We have so much that it scares most people. We have so much to excite people.
We have so much, why use what others have left behind for us?
I’m dreaming of a South African Christmas.