Holiday in the Southern Hemisphere: What It's Like Celebrating Christmas in Summer

Holiday in the Southern Hemisphere: What It's Like Celebrating Christmas in Summer

We are less than a week away from Christmas. The trees are up, carols fill the airwaves, and gifts are being wrapped...but there's simply no way it's gonna be a white Christmas at my house.

You see right now here in Cape Town, South Africa the weather is a little shy of a 110 degrees, the surfs high and our pristine beaches are covered with tanned bodies flocking to 'The Fairest Cape'.  'Cause it's summer.   

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My front yard looks more like a picturesque vacation in Palm Springs than a Winter Wonderland. Don't get me wrong - we go through the motions. It's not like Santa wears a Safari Suit this side of the world, but we've learned to run with our own traditions rather than using a couple cans of fake snow to powder up the mantle.

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This year, our own theme is black, white & gold...anything but a red & green Christmas. [I took inspiration from this tablescape from Bliss At Home.]

created at: 12/19/2012

I've succumbed to the pressure of a (somewhat) conventional tree this year (it's still plastic), mostly for the sake of my little ones. But in previous years our 'trees' have included a potted Aloe wrapped in tinsel and the willowy branch of an indigenous yellow wood tree. I still plan on incorporating indigenous elements into our tablescape, like these aloes in glass vases.

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As we plan our big meal there isn't a turkey in sight, mostly because we don't have turkeys... but we have ostriches, LOTS of ostriches!

If you do manage to find a turkey, it's necessarily imported, and as an ecologically- conscious person, I feel I can do better and so I've ordered two plump farm hens from a local farmer. A mate of mine has a backyard smoke shack and ground up some free range pork mince with braised leeks that I'll be using as a stuffing (thanks Martin!).

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This year I'm being rather ambitious in that outside of meat I've grown all our vegetables that will be served of Christmas Day, I'll share more about that in Friday's post with links to a few of the recipes I plan to use.

People here celebrate Christmas in different ways, expected when you officially acknowledge 11 national languages.

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For some, like the Afrikaners, Christmas may well be a Braai (Barbeque) with a traditional sausage called Boerewors or a Potjiekos, a stew cooked in a local Potjie pot over an open fire. Either way there will certainly be meat, and lots of it. I remember arriving at a party once with a salad, the host remarked if he wanted me to bring a salad he'd have asked me to bring a chicken. (He wasn't joking.)

A perennial favorite in one of our traditional cultures is inhloko isigqokweni (literally "head-on-a-plate", though colloquially referred to as a "smiley"): a parboiled, then roasted sheep head, served with samp (cracked dry corn kernels) and beans...not for the faint of heart.

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As in many places it's really a SLOW time of year, time to reflect on what's past and what's to come, all culminating in a New Year's Day swim in one of our many beaches, which get so packed it makes finding Waldo seem like a walk in the park.

We are surrounded by mountains, so holiday hiking is normally in the cards, or at least a walk in one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch. Some prefer mountain biking and hit the trails while others enjoy our new city bike lanes to take in some last minute shopping. There is something for everyone, even snow...albeit provided in the confines of some shopping center's "Winter Wonderland" display.

So, wherever you are this year, I hope that you're able to gather round with friends and family, snow or sun and embrace the festive spirit. And who knows, maybe next year you'll decide to visit and experience a Summer Christmas of your own? I'll bring the salad.


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Matt Allison on Dec 21, 2012:

Thanks guys, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece! Yes, it's rather different this side of the pond, today is sweltering, seems hard to imagine the snow storms I'm seeing on my Instagram timeline! DaCarrot, sorry to read of your Xmas experience in Singapore, it sounds, um, different for sure!

dacarrot on Dec 20, 2012:

I've been in Cape Town a few years ago around Christmas. I thought that experience had prepared me for celebrating Christmas in Singapore.

I was wrong.

While it's been a nice experience in Cape Town, it's somewhat of a nightmare in Singapore. Everything is lit (with advertising companies), everywhere fake trees and snow, everywhere Santa Claus with colorful raindeer/ mushrooms/ unicorns.
Very loud, very over the top, very unchristmassy.

We do what we can.

Merry Christmas!

Régina on Dec 20, 2012:

Thank you for this post! I was always wondering about Christmas in summer.....will be thinking of you while shoveling the white stuff. Joyeux Noël from Québec.

Kim on Dec 19, 2012:

very cool

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