By Charlene Breytenbach
On Christmas Eve I sit on our porch and look back on the past 10 years’ Christmas celebrations. My parents are in South Africa and my husband’s family are in New Zealand. We try to be at a family over the Christmas season, but this is not always possible – flights are expensive and leave is sometimes scarce. Last year was my first Christmas in South Africa in 9 years. For some it would be awful to think that they have last been with family on Christmas Day 9 years ago, but at least one doesn’t count down the years like we do with days and it actually goes by quickly.
On Christmas in South Africa everyone is at the coast – Johannesburg/Gauteng is a ghost city. The most companies close and everyone takes a bit of time off to be with their people.
Perhaps you are wondering how Christmas would be if you were not in your birth country:
Here in Australia most of the families also go on holiday and most companies close for the week between Christmas and New Years Day. Sydney is a popular city, so it becomes remarkably busy here. Many tourists come to visit and enjoy the big and beautiful city. There is such a nice vibe here – lights throughout the entire city, choirs singing in the main streets and Christmas songs playing everywhere. Almost every suburb has a Christmas play in a park with Santa, choir, food stalls and firework displays to conclude everything. This year we were at Manly and it was wonderful. There are so many activities one can take part in and so many places to see. Too many to mention. Darling Harbour has the most beautiful firework displays each Saturday evening in December. There are also quite a few streets where the houses are beautifully decorated and one can go for a stroll in the evening on your own time and view the lights. It is also nice to see how much effort many companies put in here. My company had a Santa and gave gifts to each child while other companies would host a family day at a park with many activities.
On Christmas Eve most people are with friends and family; many go to the beach or has a picnic somewhere. Many people enjoy seafood during the festive season with “a prawn on the barbie”. Another popular option is ham or turkey with fresh salads. On Christmas morning some will go jogging or walking with their club or even enter an organised half-marathon or 10 km race along with the rest of the community. Others go to church and spend time with family and friends. Most shops and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, but the 26th is the day for shops – there are massive sales on Boxing Day!
If it is your first Christmas outside South Africa, it could perhaps be a darker time than what I explained here… Your furniture may still be in transit from South Africa or you have not yet found a church or jogging club. Perhaps you have not yet met friends who you are comfortable inviting over… Unfortunately, even after 10 years of being far away, one still feels the loneliness when you have a quiet moment over Christmas. One reflects on another year of victories and disappointments, with or without your people. You miss your favourite beach or shopping centre, but the biggest hole in your heart is your people.
Sometimes you are lucky and build friendships over time that feel like family. You find friends that become more like sisters or another’s parents who later feel like your parents. Others are fortunate and their families come visit over Christmas time or also immigrates or maybe there are cheap flights and leave and you see your favourite beach, shop or people.
This year I look back with a grateful heart! I am grateful for such a beautiful city with so many opportunities and such wonderful people. I am grateful for friendships – new and old. I miss friends new and old, in South Africa and outside of South Africa! I miss my family, but I am also grateful for the privilege we had last year to be with them.
I am grateful for a healthy, blessed year full of love and I look forward to what 2019 holds. I hope you enjoyed this piece of Australia and that you will have a blessed Christmas time in South Africa. May 2019 be a year of healing, health, peace and love for all!
This post is also available in: Afrikaans