Merry Christmas, everyone, from sunny South Africa!
OK, I admit, I'm cheating a teensy bit here… Because I will have only intermittent internet access and I wasn't at all sure I'd be able to post today, I have used pictures and stories from Christmas 2004, which was the last Christmas I spent in South Africa.
I have written plenty elsewhere about how how we always celebrated Christmas when I was a kid and how the traditions seemed to be cast in stone – to be celebrated immutably for ever. But my mom's untimely death in 2003 put an end to most of the traditions that I had loved so well – I don't think any of us realised to what extent she was the lynchpin that kept it all together, until she was no longer there. But one of the many things I have learnt is that in order to live a happy life, you absolutely, unequivocally have to learn to expect, accept, and even like change. This is a tall order for me as I have never been big on change. But sometimes you have no choice and in the end the change turns out to be positive anyway.
Since 2003, we have been celebrating Christmas at my brother and sister-in-law's house. Paola, my sister-in-law, is Italian and in the tradition of long tables of family getting together under olive trees for celebratory meals, we have started having an African version of this fine tradition. Everyone is invited – relatives, their spouses, their children, close family friends and "widows and orphans". Because there are often 20 people at the table, to save the hostess's sanity, everybody brings something. The prettiest of the contributions was definitely these little cassata pots from Paola herself.
They're really easy – melt good quality vanilla ice cream till it's churnable, then mix in your favourite chopped nuts and candied fruit, bits of chocolate, nougat – whatever you like. Then spoon into colourful glass tumblers, freeze, and garnish before serving. Voila! Bellissima!
As I'm on holiday, things will be a little quiet around here – but normal transmission will resume in 2007. Happy holidays, everyone!