Thursday, December 27, 2018

A seasonal conundrum

Stanley - Thursday

Before I describe my annual seasonal conundrum, Michael and I are delighted to announce our new website.

It is created by the talented and very patient Sue Trowbridge of Interbridge.

It replaces the old, which is 10 years old, because we now have a second protagonist, Crystal Nguyen.

Having the new website also allows us to bring our mailing list up to date with respect to privacy regulations and guidelines. So, please visit and resubscribe to our list. We send out three or four newsletters a year.

A seasonal conundrum

First, a very happy holiday to all our readers. I wish you a healthy and happy 2019, surrounded by piles of books.

When I grew up in Johannesburg, my parents worked hard to make our Christmas just like the European one of their heritage (Wales, Scotland, Norway). Of course, it started with a Christmas tree, suitably adorned with decorations, lights, and a star on top. Then we had to spray it with artificial snow to complete the scene.

The snow was all important for Santa to be able to deliver the goods! I always felt sorry for the old man, dressed as he was to ward off the cold, when the temperature outside was somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees C (approximately 80 - 88 degrees F). And that was in Johannesburg. Down at the coast in Durban, the temperature was at least ten degrees warmer. Poor man.

I also wondered what the reindeer thought of the heat and lack of snow.

The Scottish side of my family exerted considerable influence over the Christmas meal. Everyone dressed relatively formally - most uncomfortable - then, after a few drinks, we enjoyed turkey and ham, with all the trappings, stuffing ourselves to the gills. Even the kids were allowed half a glass of bubbles. The grand finale was closing all the curtains to darken the room, followed by the ceremonial entrance of the flaming plum pudding accompanied by the skirl of the bagpipes played by my cousins, Murray MacGregor. Then all the kids eagerly awaited their helping, hoping to find a small coin embedded in it. When very young, the amount was a 'tickey' (what we called a thrjppeny coin), but inflation eventually resulted in the treasure being half a crown (two shillings and six pence).

Finally, the meal over, stomachs stretched, the kids would stagger to the swimming pool and lie down next to it in the glorious sunshine. In later years, we would have a watermelon in the pool, secretly injected with vodka.

So what is the conundrum?

For me, ever since I was very young, I found it really weird that we wanted to perpetuate a European tradition in Africa. After all, Christianity didn't originate in a snow-covered land. And there's no evidence that Santa was white. So why perpetuate those myths? After all, there were plenty of black Christians. Why not have an African Christmas more suited to where we were? Perhaps a baobab rather than an evergreen tree. Maybe a black Santa wearing summer attire, arriving on an elephant or a bicycle.

The conundrum is what to tell my grandkids. All around, even today, in the shops and media, Santa is  an old white man and arrives in a sled drawn by reindeer. Still very colonial. So out of place. But the kids expect it. And the last thing I want to do is spoil their Christmas.

Should I suffer in silence?

Post script: A friend sent mea picture of a real African Christmas tree.


  1. Silence or not, you shall suffer. I mean, look at those horrible granddaughters clambering all over you. Poor thing.

  2. With beautiful grandchildren like that, you'll never least not in silence. :) And I love your new site! Congratulations, mate!

  3. I've added a real African Christmas tree to the blog! Ho ho ho.