24 December 2011 by Chris Marais

Christmas in the Country

‘Tis the day before Christmas and out here in the heartland of South Africa the little towns are stocking up with last-minute light bulbs and just about anything made from neon.

Screw-ons, bayonet-attachments, red, green, blue, yellow, long strings of little lights, reindeer pronking over rainbows, elves, dwarves and even shiny garden gnomes are making an appearance all over the Karoo. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re rich or poor, a suburbanite or a township dweller - once it’s dark and the lights come on, you could be anywhere happy in the world.

From Calvinia to Cradock, Willowmore to Williston and out on the Camdeboo Flats, there’s the kind of Christmas spirit you normally only really witness in Lapland. You’d swear this was the second home of Santa Claus. Here in Cradock, up at the reservoir, we’ve even got the little family of exotic fallow deer to prove Santa occasionally pops in.

The houses in these little towns - many of them quite nondescript in the harsh light of a Karoo lunchtime - will be glowing with fairy lights tonight. The residents will gather up their children and begin slow-walking around the neighbourhood, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the displays.

This time of the year the weather is a lottery. It could be super-stormy and windy, it could be gentle-drizzly or it could be one of those perfect summer evenings: a slight breeze to chill the chenin blanc, sunset spectacular over the mountains, a cool, welcome end to a blistering day.

To me, it’s the ultimate show of Christmas charity. Here, come and see my shiny house. Here, have some Yuletide spirit - for free. Quite often, the owners of the illuminated houses welcome you in for a Christmas libation and a quick chat about how exactly they managed to connect 230 strands of party lights together without blowing up the place…

Category: Culture & History

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