At the tip of Africa Christmas feels more like the Fourth of July. It’s the middle of summer, and the builders’ holiday lasts from mid December to mid January, so everything seems to slow down. There is still a lot of rushing around trying to get things organized, but one can do it without being dressed up like a Michelin Man and dealing with tricky weather. The idea of a traditional Christmas dinner of roasted fowl and a steaming Christmas pudding with hot brandy butter sauce is appealing – but makes little sense in 90 degree weather.
When I was a girl, we spent Christmas with my father’s twin sister on the coast in the Eastern Cape so we had little of the tradition in our own home. We would make a few streamers from crepe paper and that was about it. Anyone with imagination, or who had read Charles Dickens, could envision a cold, snowy Christmas but it was a revelation when I actually experienced it for the first time. Christmas cards came to life and the music (from the sublime “In the Bleak Midwinter” to the ridiculous “Jack Frost Nipping At Your Nose”) had a new resonance.
I had never trimmed a live Christmas tree! One of DB’s employees was horrified when she discovered that we had no plans for a tree our first year here, so she bought us a mini tree (complete with decorations that I still use to this day). To begin with I thought “trimming the Christmas tree” meant pruning it. My colleagues would eagerly ask me if I had my tree up yet as if that marked the beginning of the Christmas season. Well, it gradually rubbed off, and now I do feel that buying the wreath for the front door and trimming the tree is when that lovely Christmas spirit begins to take hold.
It’s been a scramble this year because I couldn’t think of anything other than my MFA until the second week in December but now the gifts are bought, the Christmas cards are sent (whether they will all get to their far-flung destinations in time remains to be seen), and we bought our Christmas tree on Sunday. It’s t-i-n-y! But very festive.