Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas in summer

It's noticing the sweaty discomfort of Father Christmas in his woolly suit suffering through the humidity, the fake snow spray-painted on windows and the foreign irrelevance of sleighs and reindeer and holly, that makes me think just how Christmas in South Africa is a season of contradictions and incongruity. The holiday doesn't seem to fit right, like some hand-me-down item of clothing. The cracks show easily: in the heat that makes all the cosy Christmas cheer a bit unpleasant to carry out in real life, in the pictures of snowmen hastily coloured-in before children have another splash in the pool, in the wild greenness of a Durban summer paling the evergreen of the Christmas tree.

But I also kind of love that no one cares about the details, that the incongruity doesn't matter. I love the enthusiasm in a Hindu colleague's talk about how she is so excited to celebrate Christmas with her new little son. I love the chaos and colour and contradiction of hybrid-Christmas narratives springing up around me. The point being that it doesn't have to make sense.

While I did spend most of my formative years enjoying a cold Christmas, where the hot food and candles and Gl├╝hwein and Christmas decor made sense, I've come to love what a subtropical holiday season feels like too, but it's largely underrepresented in all things Christmas. So in the interests of celebrating the holiday season in a local way, here's my list of things I like about this time of year:

  • heat-soaked, lazy days after a busy year of work
  • the merciful whir of air-conditioners
  • the chaotic green everywhere and the carpet of Frangiapani blossoms on the patio
  • mangoes and paw-paws and litchis 
  • outside dinners when the day starts to cool down slightly
  • the feel of cold water on hot skin
  • being barefoot 
  • the clink of ice-cubes in white wine shared with friends
  • having an excuse to bake something delicious despite the heat and having a cold shower afterwards
  • (literally) cool desserts 
  • cutting off a bunch of bananas from my little cluster of banana trees in the garden
  • the ingenuity of beaded wire Christmas decorations made by industrious street vendors
  • finding local substitutes for ridiculously priced nuts and berries
  • and like everywhere: time with my people ☺

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