We are joining in Christmas in Different Lands series today! Each day, a blogger from another country are sharing about a certain aspect of Christmas as celebrated in different lands!
As South Africans, we have a mix-match of advent traditions. Some of our traditions come from our forefathers, the Dutch and the Germans, as well as American traditions plainly because it seems that their traditions are everywhere!
I have done some research to find out a little bit about our forefathers’ traditions. I have found the German Tradition of an Advent Wreath with 4 Candles very interesting. 4 Sundays before Christmas, an advent wreath(adventkrans) with four candles is set on the “kaffeetafel”. Friends and family are invited for coffee and cookies each Sunday afternoon around the table. A candle will burn for each Sunday, leading up to Christmas. We don’t burn four candles, but this is where our Christmas cookie baking tradition comes from!
The Dutch Tradition of St. Nick’s Day where the people of the Netherlands leave out shoes on the night of the 5th of December for St. Nick and Zwarte Piet to fill with chocolate, small gifts and a clementine, is quite unique. St. Nick is also known as Christmas Father and not Santa, and that is what we call him as well. The shoes turned into stockings(an American tradition), which we do as well, but only on Christmas morning will the stockings be filled with small gifts.
One tradition that we did not inherit, but I find it quite fun is the Danish Countdown candle. One uses a plain candle and mark it from 1 to 25. You burn it each just long enough to melt to the next marking until you get to the very last one on the bottom, then it is Christmas Day. Fun right? Oh, and they believe elves are little Santas that live in your attic the whole year through to be ready when Christmas arrives for little tasks Santa uses them for…
Shops, schools, and churches start with festivities in November. Shops are decorated, schools have nativity shows and churches have Carols by Candlelight get-togethers and outreaches to the needy.
Growing up, we had a Christmas tree(a fake one) we only decorated a few days before Christmas. We usually open presents on Christmas Eve, after the kids give an impromptu nativity show for the grownups. On Christmas Day, we’ll go to church in the morning, afterwards, we’ll have a big lunch and then the grownups will have naps while the kids play with their new toys.
With my own children, I’ve added some more traditions. We have advent activities like making presents and cards, tree ornaments and baking cookies. We also have something small to open each day in paper bags counting down to Christmas. We have a visiting Elf on the Shelf(a DIY version since we don’t get the original one here). He is not a mischievous elf, but one that will leave us some fun activities to do, or just do fun things at night so the kids can find him in the morning.
Christmas Eve is usually spent with family, having a big dinner and opening presents for the kids. We also go for a ride to watch houses that are made up of lights. Christmas morning, our kids will open their stocking gifts, then we go to church. After church, they will receive another gift. We try spreading it out, so the excitement of presents lasts longer.
Our South African advent activities are adopted from the Dutch, the Germans and the Americans, making it not as unique, but special and fun too!
Merry Christmas or like we say in Afrikaans: Geseende Kersfees!