Our fantastic bloggers are back with the final part of out Christmas traditions series. Hopefully reading these it will help get you into a festive spirit.
A Family Christmas
Christmas in Botswana is all about family. It’s usually a mixture of nuclear and extended family. Due to distance, this is customarily the one time I find myself with family. (Apart from weddings and funerals in the year.) It is not so much about presents, in fact presents are few. The only thing one would consider a present would be new clothes. Commonly known as ‘Christmas clothes’ or ‘diaparo tsa Keresemose,’ often gifts for the children.
Every December when my parents got leave from their jobs; my mother, father, little brother and I would found ourselves either Mookane or Seleka bound. I find my roots in both the Bangwato and Batswapong tribes of Botswana and it’s a wonderful combination.
Christmas in Seleka would be filled with love and as we approach the red sanded village I would scream in anticipation waiting for all that was to come. On this side of the family, I have fewer cousins and being the oldest I would have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Early Christmas morning we would all wake up. The responsibility of meat would fall upon my cousins and I.
My grandmother used to raise chickens, so without fail we would need two chickens for Christmas. I remember the screams and squeals of my childhood as we ran after the specific chickens. My brother would jump out of the way in fear, and we would shout at him for letting the chicken pass by. Finally we would catch the chickens, they would be slaughtered and plucked. We would scream out the pieces we each wanted. Lunch would take ages, and we would keep asking for it. But when lunch came, it would be so beautiful. Every Motswana knows that a Christmas meal would be chicken, rice, assorted salads, soup, tomato sauce and mayonnaise. The last two were a staple. We would eat to our hearts content, and we would have an assortment of fizzy drinks.
After that it would be Christmas music, dancing, relaxing under the shade and children’s games. When we play games, of course we would be in play clothes, Christmas clothes cannot get dirty. They are a prized possession.
Christmas in Mookane was awesome before my grandmother and grandfather passed away. We would go to masimo with all my cousins. This side of the family has lots of cousins and the squeals would echo throughout the fields as we participated in Letlhafula. Something quite uncommon now as the rains do not come till the end of the year. We would pick watermelons and share them right there on the fields. It was the most beautiful time of the year, when we were carefree and we had to be nothing else but children. Christmas lunch would comprise of rice, goat/ cow meat, assorted salads, mayonnaise and tomato sauce. At night we would sit around the fire and tell stories, stories we call mainane in Botswana. We would all laugh at the stories and sometimes would even sleep right there outside next to each other.
Now that I’m married and have a little family of my own we are making our own Christmas traditions. We’re instilling the principles of love, family and fun and most importantly celebrating the Lord Jesus Christ who Christmas is all about.
Sometimes we spend Christmas with my in-loves (in-laws) and sometimes we spend it with my parents. But either way, we will always want to be with family because family is at the heart of Christmas in Botswana.
Written by Helena Hatty– She’s an aspiring writer, artist and mom of two daughters.
Christmas is a time when people who are living far from home often think about family traditions. Carrying out your own family traditions can be helpful for children growing up in a different culture. It reinforces their sense of identity and helps to keep them grounded while adapting to a new country.
It can be helpful for people to start new family traditions if their upbringing had unhappy memories, or Christmas was characterised by family conflicts, or if they are in a family blend of more than one culture. New Christmas traditions could include getting together for a special meal with friends, humorous games, going on a special outing, watching movies together, making decorations and cards, or baking and decorating biscuits to share with the community.
On talking to people from other countries, food seems to be at the centre of most Christmas gatherings. Different cultures have different traditional foods and it can be interesting to find out about other traditions and try new foods.
I’ve found it hard to adapt the cuisine of a northern hemisphere Christmas to the height of a southern summer in Gaborone. Stodgy English meals designed for cold winter days are not so appealing in 40deg heat. Nor is the thought of spending hours in a hot kitchen producing an enormous meal for wilting guests who are sipping iced drinks. Our Christmas fare in Botswana is more likely to include quiche, cold meat, salads, fruit salads and ice cream.
Origins of some of my own culture’s traditional foods…
Turkey. The original tradition was to have a goose as main dish because geese could more easily be spared at this time of year than chickens or cows. Turkeys were imported from America in the 1500s and became popular because they could feed a larger amount of people.
Christmas cake. This used to be eaten on twelfth night (5th Jan). The expensive spices symbolised the gifts given by the Magi to Jesus. Nuts and dried fruit were a rare treat for the winter months
Christmas pudding. This originated as a way of preserving meat and used to be called plum porridge. It was made from beef shin, spices, sugar and fruit, boiled up in a broth until it was like jelly.
Festive season food from other cultures
Mopane worms – Southern Africa. Dried emperor moth caterpillars which can be eaten as they are or cooked in a peanut sauce.
Smalahove – whole smoked sheep’s head – Norway
Haggis – A New Year’s dish in Scotland – sheep’s offal minced with oatmeal, suet and spices, encased and cooked in the animal’s stomach.
Kiviak – Greenland. Whole feathered auks are packed into a fat-lined seal skin which is sewn up, buried and fermented for three months.
So, if you’re eating smoked herring and potatoes, seswaa and morogo, sausages and pickled cabbage, turkey and Christmas pudding. Or if you are with your whole extended family or just yourselves or with friends, enjoy your food and traditions and have a very happy and festive Christmas!
From us at Family Gems we’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas. If you enjoyed reading this article please have a look at part 1 of the series Christmas Traditions: What We Do In Botswana. and part 2 Christmas Traditions: Slaughtered Goats, Dikhwaere, New Clothes And Family. They also tell stories of our beautiful Botswana and what we do here for the festive season.