Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow? Not everywhere! Temperatures of 104 degrees Fahrenheit aren’t typically associated with Christmastime. But in multicultural South Africa, which lies below the equator, it’s simply the norm for the Christmas season.
South Africa is in a post-colonial era, and many Christmas traditions that are observed are imported from the U.S. or Great Britain. People who can afford it buy Christmas trees and adorn them with snowmen decorations. This is the minority though, as many families have lower incomes and cannot purchase trees or decorations. Other cultures in South Africa stay away from snow-related decorations and prefer to craft beaded ones.
Because of the soaring temperatures, a meal consisting of cold salads and meats is eaten on Christmas day. Christmas tarts, which resemble a fruitcake, are served for dessert, along with trifle. Trifle is a dessert made from custard, fruit, sponge cake, fruit juice, gelatin, whipped cream and alcohol. These ingredients are arranged in layers with fruit and sponge on the bottom and custard and cream on top. Families who cannot afford a big feast stick to a simple meal of sausage and pap, or ground maize meal.
Many churches have a Christmas Day service, which generally lasts three to six hours. Some services feature colorful African dress, lots of singing and several different preachers. Christmas is also a time for South Africans to travel and visit their families.
For some, Christmas can be the gloomiest time of year. Brent Bartlett, TWR’s Public Relations director in South Africa, notes that alcoholism and depression are widespread among non-Christians during the Christmas season. Suicide rates skyrocket, and people who don’t have any family are extremely lonely. Bartlett formerly worked for the military medical department in South Africa, where he saw the results of many botched suicide attempts around Christmas. “It was a very difficult and depressing thing to see,” he said.
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