Merry Christmas, South African style



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.

20041225christmasdessert 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!


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  1. Sally Davies says

    Hi Cook Sister
    Happy Christmas to you and those you love. I loved this article and picture, it reminded me of the celebrations of my own childhood, in Zimbabwe, where my Nanna always had the ‘long table’ and the Christmas feasts were unforgettable. One day, maybe, I’ll be able to recreate that.
    Thank you for all the effort you put into making your Blog such a joy to read. I’ve actually baked the Peanut Butter cookies AND the shortbread and both have turned out quite delicious! As someone who hardly ever attempts to bake, I think that’s quite a good testimonial for the recipes. May you be blessed in 2007.
    Sally Davies, Somerset West

  2. says

    Hi Sally
    Well, that is one of the nicest comments I have ever received! Thank you so much *blush* I’m glad I could rekindle memories of a childhood Christmas – I absolutely love long tables of family and friends together for Christmas. And I’m thrilled to hear that you baked two of my cookies – as a fellow-occasional baker, I like low-maintenance, high-taste recipes like these 😉 Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and successful 2007.
    Hi Simonetta
    Thanks – and may I wish you and your family the same! Look forward to more interesting posts from your blog in 2007 :-)
    Hi Pille
    And a very merry Christmas to you too! I can imagine that our childhood experiences of Christmas couldn’t be more different 😛 But there is something wonderfully universal about a table of family and friends gathering together to celebrate. All the best for 2007!