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Holiday Traditions of South Africa

"Merry Christmas"

A light display featuring the crucified Jesus surrounded by angels blowing trumpets in Potchefstroom, South Africa

As South Africa lies in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas falls in the middle of Summer. There’s no ‘White Christmas’, but rather a colorful season of beautiful, blooming wild flowers and lush green grass.

Schools are closed for the entire month of December, along with many businesses. Outdoor activities are a favorite pastime in South Africa, so this is a time for planning trips to the beach or camping out in the countryside, as well as visiting friends and family. Kruger National Park is a popular destination for holiday vacationers. 

Caroling is another popular Christmas tradition, and groups of carolers can be found throughout their neighborhoods and on street corners signing their carols. Certain Christmas Eve celebrations in larger cities include “Carols by Candlelight.” 

More European traditions, brought over by Dutch colonists, can be found as well. Homes are decorated with pine branches and the traditional fir Christmas Tree, waiting to be surrounded by presents, and stockings adorn the mantle, hanging in anticipation to be filled with fruits, sweets, toys and other goodies. However, as giving is done year-round in South Africa, gift-giving is not the major highlight of the season. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a visit from Santa Claus, known as Sinterklass, or Saint Nicholas, and Kersvader, Father Christmas, for those who speak Afrikaans. 

The traditional Christmas lunch, rather than Christmas dinner, is eaten outside in the summer sun and often constitutes a barbecue, or “braai”. Main dishes include turkey, duck, or roast beef, served with a variety of side dishes like mince pies, suckling pig, yellow rice, raisins, and vegetables. Desserts include Christmas plum pudding, Christmas Crackers, and a traditional dish called Malva Pudding, or Lekker Pudding.

Boxing Day, December 26th, is also a public holiday, and a day for relaxation.

Holiday Traditions in South Africa

Video by Lifey