Christmas in the southern Hemisphere

camps bay

Christmas time - in the southern Hemisphere

Zilla Stekhoven: Founder of Sawabona Africa

Christmas in South Africa: When I was young, I thought that everyone celebrates Christmas just like we did. We were not exposed to how it could be to be poor, however there were Christmas donation drives for food and gift parcels. Then moving to Germany, every Christmas time the question came up, how is it to celebrate Christmas in the summer. In this blog I will share how it is to celebrate Christmas in South Africa, and how the beneficiaries of Sawabona Africa celebrate and what their biggest wish for Christmas is.

Christmas is in summer. We do not drink gluwine and have Christmas markets. As a child of a British mother, our Christmas was rather ‘traditional’, our Christmas tree was surrounded by presents, our stockings were put outside our bedroom door, waiting for Santa Claus (we called him Father Christmas) to fill it up for us to unpack on Christmas Day (25. December). A feast full of turkey, ham, Christmas pudding filled with coins and laced with brandy butter and cream. As we grew older, the practical side of my parents kicked in, and they settled for a South African Braai (barbeque) or a table filled with cold meats and salads. The day after Christmas (26December) is a beach day. Thousands upon thousands of holiday-makers flock to the beach.

Unaware of the differences in cultures and income levels, I have to confess, I did not ask the question how is it to have very few resources and whether black South Africans celebrated in the same way as we did. Beaches were divided until the end of apartheid. We lived separate lives. 

How do our beneficiaries celebrate Christmas?

I asked our beneficiaries to share with me how they celebrate Christmas. A similar theme runs through Christmas: FOOD! However, no ham, turkey and Christmas pudding to be found on the list. Meat of all kinds – chicken, boerewors (sausage) and all types of meat specifically grilled, with rice and dumplings and sometimes salad, seem to be particular favourite. Children are excited about the amount of sweets, cake and deserts that are on offer particularly jelly and custard. Being together with family, playing loud music and dancing is the order of the day.

Picture: Boerewors - on the braai for Christmas. Source: Canva

What about Christmas gifts?

Santa Claus seems not to visit our beneficiaries families, children do not wake up to stockings, however gifts are exchanged. Learners wish for clothes. They long for the latest Converse, Nike, or adidas shoes – brands out of their reach due to the price tag. Some gift clothes before christmas so they have something special on christmas day. Many children dream of receiving electronic gifts, new phones, laptops, play stations and games. Sadly for most families these are completely out of reach. I wish I had a magic wand and could grant them all their wishes. There are however many in South Africa who have big charitable hearts.

Giving back

Christmas is a time of giving, throughout South Africa, charities, schools and caring individuals rally together to collect food, toys, clothes and stationery to put together into boxes and packages to gift to those who are less fortunate. I recently received a bag of second-hand soft toys which I squeezed into my bag and donated to an orphanage for Christmas. For many these are the only gifts they receive. 

Picture: Soft toys and toys donated for Christmas

Can we make a difference

The projects we support, all supporting disadvantaged children in their communities, do what they can to support the most vulnerable. They gather donations, host a Christmas event to celebrate the end of the school year and wish them well for their holidays. Children are treated and honoured.

Through Sawabona Africa we offer the opportunity for you to gift a friend a Christmas voucher which is a donation to our projects. This ensures that more children can be supported and be gifted the gift of education, a truly precious gift.

Donate a gift certificate here.