Thursday, November 16, 2006

Christmas in Summer

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat. Suddenly we are rehearsing Christmas carols for end of term nativity plays. My son wants to practise 'The Holly and the Ivy' on his recorder. I've dug out my Christmas cake recipe and stocked up on dried fruit and ground almonds for it.

All this festive preparation still seems weird to me coming as it does at the beginning of summer. The long summer holidays lie ahead of us, days of swimming and going to the beach and in the middle of all that a festival that to me says winter, cold, snow, huddling by the fire by candlelight. I think this is the hardest cultural difference to adjust to moving hemispheres. Christmas is such a nostalgia-inducing traditional festival and hot weather just doesn't fit the picture. The Christmas lights are duly strung up in our local town, but we never see them lit as the sun is still shining at bed-time. Mulled wine is best saved for our Midwinter Festival but we do feast on mince pies around Christmas, my sister-in-law being a master hand with melt-in-the-mouth pastry. The traditional turkey and gammon stay on the menu but we usually eat them cold with salads.

For the children this is Christmas though. We wondered about taking them to experience a real English Christmas with Granny and Grandpa one day, and maybe we will, but they might wonder at the thrill of muddy, damp Christmasses in Southern England, not a snowflake falling, dark at four o'clock and never a swimming pool in sight. We're creating a different nostalgia template for them here. One composed of stripey jellies, cutting the tree from our own farm and dragging it to the house only to find it too huge to stand inside even with our generous high ceilings, sewing funny felt tree ornaments for all the family, swimming, beach and braais, picking the last of the strawberries for Christmas lunch and singing Christmas carols by the light of the setting sun rather than candle light.

Every year I leave baking the cake until the week before Christmas and then read in the recipe that I should have baked it months before and wrapped it up, just peeking at it occasionally and dousing it with brandy. I keep telling myself that this year will be different, but convincing myself to bake a Christmas cake when it's hot outside is hard..I never really believe deep down that it is going to be Christmas until the last minute. I hereby promise myself to bake that cake before the end of November, as for Christmas cards....will email ones do? That last posting date for overseas always comes before I've even sprinkled the glitter near a bright coloured piece of card, usually we put together a digital montage of pics of our delightul offspring and email it to all our friends and family on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve on some years. Six weeks left though - plenty of time - remind me again in a couple of weeks.


  1. You've just reminded me that I must get started on my Christmas shopping pronto if I want to avoid the mad rush!

    Glad to have stumbled upon your entertaining blog. Keep at it! =)

  2. My kids are begging me to get out the Christmas stuff already and I'm making them wait another week until Thanksgiving is over...

    My parents live in Arizona where it is very warm and sunny in December. It is strange sometimes feeling like Christmas there, but it works...


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