SOUTH AFRICA | Giving back at Christmas from Brad at The Inside Edge DMC
South African Christmas traditions are largely derived from British traditions given our close historic links. We have crackers, decorations and trees (with fake snow) but there are of course some subtle differences.
Most fortunate South Africans do some charity work over the holidays given the huge need in our country. Like always some do more than others but most recognise the need to do something for those who have far less. We have toy drives where radio stations have massive projects collecting toys for the underprivileged, Santa Shoe Box or something more personal like preparing and serving a Christmas lunch at an old age home or similar facility.
The main difference is Christmas is at the height of our summer and scorching hot days are the norm (not so much fun being dressed in a full Father Christmas suit with a false beard at the mall). This means we tend to spend Christmas morning on the beach or around the pool but only after opening presents (literally at first light, around 04:40 am for the kids). Some South Africans serve turkey and gammon as a cold meal with salads rather than the traditional accompaniments, it certainly saves a couple of family members from cooking in a hot kitchen. Many people choose to prepare the turkey outdoors in a kettle BBQ. Then after a long lunch (dessert is accompanied by ice cream almost without exception) everyone heads back into the pool for relief from the heat, grandparents, adults and kids all having fun together.
Over the Christmas period a number of the Afrikaan’s community originating from the Dutch settlers cook what is known locally as potjiekos (literally translated as pot food) and this is a stew cooked slowly in a cast iron pot over a fire. Popular choices are oxtail, ostrich venison, seafood and lamb. The process takes forever and you don’t dare advise the chef as to where they are going wrong or could improve, it is very much the case that anyone who owns a potjie pot considers themselves an absolute expert (which is also probably why I don’t own one). Desserts include local specialties such as melktert (milk tart). As the name implies a baked tart with a milk mousse like filling, koeksisters (from Koek Sizzen translated as cake sizzles), twisted fried batter cakes which are dipped in a very sweet syrup then cooled.
In short, a fun time with noise and chaos abounding shared with family and friends.