While watching the Springboks win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, I noticed the first thing many players did was to run to their wives and kids. It was very evident that their values lie with family. They scooped up their young ones in their arms before returning to the field to celebrate. These moments will create lifelong memories of their legacy.
If there is one thing South Africans are good at, it’s family, be it over a meal or in the pool, a picnic at the beach, or a long road trip. Even if we haven’t spoken to each other for a year or have quarrels, we set them aside to join in the fun together. We love, play, and fight hard with passion and gusto. Nothing is done at half measure; we will defend each other to the death but quarrel like children.
As the year draws to a close, December is a crucial reminder of the dawn of a season of family and festive celebrations. The Christmas season represents a time of getting together with those you love to sing, eat, and have fun.
Many traditions associated with the Christmas holidays are also distinct in their origins, many being secular in nature. Most have originated from outside the realm of Christian influence or Africa. Nobody even knows where they started or why we do them, yet come December we all haul out the tree and ornaments, untangle meters of Christmas lights, and start baking Christmas cake.
The Christmas meal is probably the most celebrated holiday tradition of all. Be it a turkey, glazed ham, or roast lamb, even all three if you must. Christmas is not Christmas without it. However, the person who decided that tongue should be on the menu should be found and locked up. Pickled fish is essential here in Cape Town, don’t ask why just eat it. Also don’t forget all those delicious vegetable sides and salads from all over the world. You need a family, or three, to finish off all the food and the traditional trifle dessert. Young and old wear colourful paper hats and pull Christmas crackers filled with useless trinkets.
We all do things differently, be it opening gifts on Christmas Eve or attending a Christmas Eve mass or a Christmas Day church service. Giving and receiving gifts, too, plays an important part in celebrating the birth of Christ.
The nativity play reminds us of Christ’s family and our own. We have all seen our children or grandchildren as toddlers playacting as mother Mary swaddling baby Jesus, or the rambunctious little wise man straightening his falling crown while trying to remember what gift to give baby Jesus. Seeing all those angelic children dressed in white and tinsel, their small voices singing “Hark The Herald Angels Sing”, as mom, dad, grandparents, and extended family joyfully join in a rendition of “Away in a Manger”, we are reminded of the true meaning of our celebration.
Gone are all the family feuds and niggling topics that divide us. If you do find yourself in a sticky situation Dr. Henry Cloud of boundaries.me suggests, “Setting boundaries during the holidays helps to reduce stress and create more meaningful connections with loved ones.” One way of implementing a healthy boundary is when you feel overwhelmed in a conversation, either change the topic or move on to another person; don’t get wrapped up in arguments and quarrels . Don’t feel guilty for establishing time boundaries by limiting the amount of time spent with difficult family members. Be kind to yourself by having realistic expectations while celebrating together.
We in the southern hemisphere often secretly wonder where on earth the sleigh, snow, and Rudolph’s red nose fit into these celebrations. But, while each diverse culture and community has its own traditions, the one thing we all hold in common is spending time with those we care about. Regardless of where these traditions originated from, take the opportunity to make memories to last a lifetime. If you don’t like or believe in these traditions, you can make new ones.
Family from near and far come to these banquets. Yes, Christmas is a family event about sharing, caring, and joining together, so if your family can’t make it, you invite those who don’t have family to join yours.
“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.” Maya Angelou
This season is about celebrating community and family with gratitude and abundance. Many don’t have enough to celebrate so be generous and kind to those with less. Family time is the time when children learn how to deal with all kinds of life situations, and where they learn innumerable lessons. It helps children gain a greater sense of self-worth. Try to appreciate each family member for their unique qualities regardless of past issues and feuds. Without this crucial time, your children can be left feeling very lost.