Christmas in South Africa
By Pamela, age 25, South Africa
In the midst of all the articles about a white Christmas, making snowmen, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire (you know the song!), I thought I'd write an article about Christmas in the southern hemisphere. I'm from South Africa, and Christmas for me is celebrated in sunny hot summer when the flowers are in bloom and the beach is calling! I have never had a white Christmas or even seen snow (although about once a year it does snow on the mountains).
Christmas in South Africa is the hottest time of the year and is the high point of every child's summer holiday, as it falls during the long school vacation. There are no log fires or warm jackets anywhere to be seen. The beach is probably the most popular place for families to go on Christmas day and enjoy the warm sunshine and play in the sand. Camping by a dam (lake) is also a popular choice for many South African families and "Christmas pool parties" are the order of the day.
Even though we don't have a white Christmas, we still decorate our houses with tinsel, wreaths, and miniature snow men (ironic, I know). Most people don't use real fir Christmas trees but instead buy artificial ones (at least they're reusable!). The festivities include colorful paper hats and crackers with little toys inside. Children hang stockings or socks and eagerly anticipate Father Christmas (Santa Claus) delivering their presents if they are good. We say "Merry Christmas" in eleven official languages. In Afrikaans, you say, "Geseënde Kersfees", and in Zulu you say, "Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle". But I just say "Merry Christmas!"
When it comes to the Christmas meal, some people celebrate with a Christmas Eve dinner, while others have a lunch on Christmas day. As our Christmas customs are based on American and English traditions, a common meal is the traditional English Christmas dinner of roast chicken or turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes, yellow rice, and vegetables. Many people opt for perhaps the most popular South African pastime, which is to have a "braai", an outdoor barbeque, where meat such as steak, chicken, boerewors (a type of sausage) are cooked and served with salad. In the summer heat some people would rather not slave over a hot stove (or braai), so they prepare a lunch of cold meat and salads.
Lastly, we have traditional English desserts of mince pies, Christmas cake or trifle - layers of custard, fruit, sponge cake, and whipped cream. Many people choose to have the traditional South African Afrikaans pudding called Melktert (Milk Tart), which is a sweet pastry crust filled with a creamy custard filling made from milk and sprinkled with cinnamon. Or, one can make my favorite dessert of all time - Malva Pudding, which is a traditional South African sponge cake type pudding served hot with custard or ice cream. I have included the recipe below. It's so delicious that Oprah even once made it on her show with her South African party planner.
Malva Pudding (serves 4)
This recipe may be found at Just Easy Recipes and is used with permission.
Ingredients - Cake:1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoon margarine
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon table salt
Ingredients - Sauce:1 cup cream
125g (4.4 oz) margarine
½ cup white sugar
½ cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Method:1. Cream the margarine and sugar together.
2. Add the egg and beat well in a mixer.
3. Add the apricot jam and vinegar.
4. Sift the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.
5. Mix well.
6. Pour into a deep round dish about 19cm (7.5inch) in diameter.
7. Cover the dish with a lid or foil, then bake for one hour at 180 °C (356 °F).
8. For the sauce, melt the margarine and add the sugar and water. Stir well before adding the cream and vanilla.
9. Pour sauce over the hot baked pudding as it comes out of the oven.