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Iikrisimesi zam

  • Posted on December 12, 2012

Christmas began with the christmas sun followed by the christmas butterflies. We woke up at 05h00 am to greet the sun that seemed to dance, the belief was that, yes, the christmas sun dances. The butterflies would appear in the morning in plenitude in pretty faint yellow, almost white and pure white ones. Missing the dancing sun was always a pity for us kids. That was in my early days when christmas was also about beautiful new dresses and lovely dolly shoes and white socks, beautiful dinner sets and delicious luncheons with desserts, which back then we called “sweets”. New pretty clothes were a must for this special day. A goat would be slaughtered and a chicken perhaps. The only christmas gift I remember from those ages was a dress from my aunt, my father’s sister. After lunch we kids were allowed to visit other family and relatives’ homes in the village, spreading season’s greetings. There were snack packs of biscuits, sweets, nuts and dried fruits that we would take to the visits prepared by mom. We would gather a big group of kids as we move through our family homes and the final stop was always at one of my cousin’s homes, they had a big hi-fi system which gave us the extra magic of music for a dance.

The day after, the 26th, the boxing day was a day of the horse racing in our village and the day was called ‘amaphinda wayo’ meaning a repeat of christmas. My parents did not go to the races and so we were not allowed though other kids went by themselves. So our ‘amaphinda wayo’ were almost like the previous day just with no gallivanting. These experiences are from as far back as I can remember christmas until my mid teens. If you ask me, this sounds like a little English village.

In my mid to late teens christmas became hugely about Christ. Which is probably fair. However because we live in a Christian dominated society, this is the time to connect with family as most work or study in faraway cities and this is the national holiday season. By the end of my teens I could not stomach Christ birthday parties and I went back to the core idea of celebrating family during this season. Christmas began to be about or being with grandmother, uMamthwa, and my extended family of cousins and aunts.

These celebrations with granny I love and cherish as they connect the cousins from the maternal line. Almost all my grandmothers’ grandchildren and great grandchildren prefer this christmas more than her children. This gathering experience is characterised with slaughtering a sheep, umqombothi, drinks and lots of food; enough for the passers by too. Most meat from the sheep iyojiwa, our equivalent for braai. My niece says it’s burnt meat and prefers it to any other meat (so do I). Homemade bread is also lovely to have at christmas gatherings or any gatherings we hold in high regard.

Mqombothi is accredited a holy drink by me and generally by most who hold highly the traditional sense. Naturally organic, prepared with love and goodwill, it is made with a heart similar to the heart one needs to have when they are potting clay – a peaceful centred heart. An uncentered heart and mind can possibly brew a sour blend instead of mellow. Delicious mellow mqombothi is a merry blessed drink and will guarantee visitors to your home whenever you brew. Which is what we want, for it is a shame to spill umqombothi because it is not wanted. It is good when spilled by what seems like an accident, as we believe it is taken by the ancestors. It is also good when we intentionally spill it as an offering to the ancestors to show gratitude and to share with our loved ones who come and visit in their spirit form.

At my granny’s it always looks like a big affair when the family is gathered. I think it’s because we’re very flamboyant and loud, therefore we lure people to drop by and we host them with food and conversation.  Here, christmas is about bringing foods I would like to prepare and eat and the same goes for other family members. We also bring gifts for our granny, stuff we think she needs and food gifts.

Once I spent christmas at one of my loveliest, best and beautiful friends, Philasande’s, home. For the first time, with Phila, we cleaned and prepared tripe from the sheep we slaughtered on the christmas eve. In our culture (its actually nice and funny to say that) the tripe cleaning and cooking is done by the mothers or women married into the family. We were not, we were just the only women in the yard. The tripe was delicious and we were on the way to being grown women mothers or perhaps married in women.

Then christmas became just another day, this was during my 3 twasa years. I was in wild Mthambalala in Lusikisiki. I remember declaring it ‘too much of a fuss for nothing day’. There was little celebration of christmas by grown-ups and that made me conclude that if christianity and the calendar hadn’t come, it would really just be another day. I graduated and I celebrated granny’s merry christmas once again.

The year after I was off to have my true english christmas, by South African standards. This was 2010. English as in with an English family in the little Hogsback mountain town, with a christmas tree and presents under it. It was an intimate affair of 6 people. For the first time I bought christmas presents for 5 people, before then I do not quite remember buying a ‘christmas christmas’ present. Every gift I gave was hand made in Pondoland, I had bought them at the cultural festival early in December in Port St Johns and at a stall by the beach. I received lovely presents that embraced my essence – incenses, scented candles, a sarong with a red/yellow dragon and seashells, a hat and little writing books. One food sport in Hogsback is picking up Boletas edulus mushrooms, they grow wild by the pine plantations and they become part of christmas celebrations and delights.

Last christmas it was back at my granny’s. This christmas celebration in some ways has evolved as we have grown. This is also a space where we meet and celebrate our nephews and nieces and they get held by the blessed and blessing hands of the 86-year-old great granny.

This year I got an early and the best christmas present, I gave birth to my greatest life achievement and blessing, Hlelumi Marimba MoUongano, my daughter, the flower of my life. The family members that have not met her look forward to greeting her.  Hlelumi and I will have two christmas destinations, with my family and then at her father’s where she is also long awaited. This is the same home where I had my first tripe preparing experience.

In summary, in my christmas experiences, I have come to understand that for me, christmas is about togetherness, a season to give gratitude for coming full circle with the seasons. It is a blessing to be able to feast on the greatness and abundance of food that the universe has blessed us with, this we do with laughter and joy and celebrating the souls that feed our souls, our families and loved ones.

Nokhanyo Mhlana is an Archival Platform correspondent based in the Eastern Cape

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