It’s summertime, and the living is easy …
The country almost shuts down as many South Africans use the big summer school break to visit relatives and “kuier by die see” – make holiday at the sea. As pastors, we usually stay behind to make sure that those less fortunate have somebody looking after them – right as I write my husband is out solving some serious conflicts. The heavily emotion-laden christmas season causes some people to snap, we see it every year.
Staying home for the summer does by no means mean staying put at home. In our region there are many lovely day destinations and I am going to be blogging about them here: Traveller’s Log. So make sure you pop in to read up on what to do in Limpopo, South Africa. I also wrote about the romantic beauty of spending New Year’s in Capetown, so make sure you don’t miss out on that, not to mention beautiful Franschhoek and all the other lovely South African dream destinations.
My blog is called “Bridging Worlds” for a reason. I have been living between worlds all my life. As a child, I was one of three Christian kids in a Communist school in a Communist nation, carefully watched by the secret service.
Later, I started savoring the freedom end of the cold war brought to my side of the world and started traveling many nations. Living in London, I found out with a shock that the British actually really despise Germans, while I grew up in a country that always spoke fondly of the well-mannered Brits and their disability to cook. I used to, in my youthful naivety, assume that Germans would be loved dearly all over the world, since their deepest meaning and purpose in life is to make things more efficient, reliable and successful. I was startled to find that people in the English-speaking world would not appreciate serious punctuality as much as someone being late, but that with a charming smile. Took me a while to let up on the efficiency for the sake of charm. In the meantime I also had to learn that Germans are about as popular in the world as dark chocolate with red chili pieces – an acquired taste for a select elite, but once you love them, you adore them. The average Joe loves Americans, passionate people love Brazilians, business people fly to Japan and the Intellectual gourmet will get absolutely teary eyed reciting German poetry. So there we have it, everybody strives to drive a fast German car (what a waste on South African highways with a speed limit of 120km/h), loves well-thought-through technology but people wise, the Germans are a very misunderstood little nation.
I have come to terms with it and learned to adapt. Ditch the punctuality, make small talk, (waste time at the counter by telling jokes and asking unimportant questions), stop caring so much about the matter and more about the soul. All part and parcel of Bridging Worlds. As is burying Christmas sentimentality.
If you dare to marry into a different culture, you will always find that similar events are emphasised totally different. I am realistic when it comes to snow, sleigh and choral music – when everyone is at the sea, there wont be any spectacular nativity plays in imposing cathedrals.
When raising kids, however, you want to somehow reproduce your own treasured childhood memories. Christmas Markets with countless little stalls roasting almonds, selling home-made crafts, Gluehwein and gingerbread, children’s choirs singing sweet Hallelujah, giant nativity scenes and the snow glistening. The christmas tree being ceremoniously decorated on the 23rd, the night of the 24th the whole family goes to church, comes back with noses red from the frosty cold, eats a light meal and then a little bell rings and the christmas room opens to the wondrous delight of young and old …
That was Christmas for me in Germany, growing up with three younger siblings and parents who insisted we all gather first to sing christmas carols accompanied by my sister on the piano and myself on the violin.
Now how on Gods good earth do you create that in the humidity of the tropics?
I have not found the answer to this. We decided to create our very own magic. Instead of Christmas markets we have some dear neighbours who cared enough to decorate their houses and yards with elaborate christmas lights, reindeer and Santas. So every other night we take our bathed boys in their pyjamas on a drive around town to admire the lights. Sam, our 1-year-old, points excitedly at everything including the traffic light and shouts: da, da da!!! Steven will ask why they hang Santa upside down into a fake chimney. All in all, it’s a happy, crazy outing, our own Christmas tradition.
We decorate our trees the first of December. Since you don’t buy real pine trees in Africa, we have a couple of plastic ones around the house which the kids decorated themselves. Germans truly hate all things plastic. I just go with the flow.
Singing “jingle bells” replaces the deeply moving choruses we knew as children – I haven’t given up on that yet, but let’s have fun with it.
About giving gifts – maybe you know the movie “Valentine’s day” The radio guys says that it is those 24 hours we have to prove our love for each other. I disagree. Birthdays, Christmasses and the like must not be put under that pressure of having to prove one’s affection. I have waited till this special day to present my boys with some items they really want to have, because we celebrate Jesus’s birthday by giving each other gifts. But please do not try to prove anything by giving me something. Have a conversation over a passionfruit and lemonade with me, listen and tell me your true heart. That means so much more than any item you could buy. Relatives and friends do not need to rush and try to find that life-changing gift basket of soaps and showercaps. I do not think men exactly feel the love when given the annual soap-on-a-pope or the “man-kit” from Game store consisting of a beer bottle opener, soap and a face-cloth. What does that mean anyway???
Every year I wish I can take everyone’s stress away: Please can we not buy each other stuff, can we rather do an excursion to somewhere we haven’t been yet?
So we did buy a few things for a few people, but we focus on rather doing nice things with those we love. Yes I got my husband something and after Christmas I tell you what it is.
December in South Africa is the month of summer break. I think every December we spend here, we will create special memories fitting this awesome,vast nation, by traveling with our boys to new places.
The photos show some German Christmas moments my children have never seen. The last time I was with my parents for Christmas is 7 years ago. It might be time … hopefully if we are lucky, we might even travel to Germany next year, Christmas markets and snow and all …