Christmas postcard date unknown, circa 1900.

Christmas postcard date unknown, circa 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two weeks ago I did my volunteer bit, and manned (why don’t we say womanned??) the Charity Kiosk in a big Cape Town  Shopping  Mall selling Christmas cards.  Its  a dying tradition –  the customers were 95%  the elderly, and they all said “just one pack this year, dear; we can’t send cards like we used to,  the  cost of overseas postage makes it very expensive”.  I know what they mean! In  years past we all had lavish, loopy string of cards that constantly dropped the cards on the carpet.  Every flat surface in the lounge would be decorated with cards that constantly fell over … it was all part of the Christmas season.  Now I stick mine up on the inside of the front door, and enjoy the bright colours and Northern Hemisphere snow/robins/holly …. okay, I’m  wallowing in sentimental nostalgia. Live with it.  This year’s crop is very modest, but I treasure my overseas friends and relatives who make the effort and send cards.

And what about the Annual Family Christmas Bulletin , usually crammed on to 1 x A4 sheet, printed both sides in teeny font and single spacing.  There’s a detailed account of hordes of people that you don’t know – whothe hell are Robert? Jemima? Koosie?  –  outlining in careful detail EVERYTHING these strangers have done during the year.  Oh boy. This is where blogs come into their own. And even Facebook , for that matter. At least on FB the space limitations curb the relentless detail. Plus you get pix, which are generally more interesting that the news report.

The Woman who went to Bed for a Year  by Sue Townsend – contains a breathless account of a British housewife’s marathon Christmas preparations. For me this section was the only enjoyable part of a grim tale; most of the fictional family should have been shot at birth.  But reverting to the annual frenzy of shopping, cooking:  Why do we do this to ourselves?   I have many memories of gigantic Christmas lunches, eaten on sweltering hot afternoons, leaving us comatose like pythons for days afterwards.

I recall one year  when sanity prevailed – well, sort of – when my Durban family served a hot, traditional cooked dinner on Christmas Eve and served a banquet of cold meat and salads and trifle etc etc  on The Day.  A much better approach, don’t you think?

And this leads me to one of my pet hates: paper hats out of Christmas Crackers.  I hate them with a passion.  My hat never fits.  Because December 25th is always boilingly hot, I’m  hot and sweaty even in repose, so sitting at the festive table, I’m as hot as the roast turkey, I’m steaming like the veg, and my jolly red paper crown sticks to my perspiring forehead and leaves a red tide mark on my face, to match my scarlet cheeks – I’m a female version of rubicund Santa Claus. Groan.

Despite my cranky curmudgeonly griping, I do enjoy Christmas. Theoretically its the Season of Goodwill, and I say “aye’ to that notion. Let’s spread more of it, with gay abandon – let’s all be happy, and generous. Just for one day of the year – can we all try, please?




  1. Mmmm….. The goode olde days….
    Makes me feel really and truly old.
    What happened to those big Christmas hot lunches? The Christmas Eve Celebrations, and Santa knocking at the door. The sound of children laughing and giggling, the anticipation of opening gifts?
    It truly felt like Christmas.
    Then suddenly it all stopped. What happened?
    Yes, I remember those Christmas cards. This year, I am lucky and received 10 in total so far. Wow! that must be a record. Flat surfaces are covered with Christmas cards this year, not enough to hang on a ‘washing line” with those little colourful pegs.
    Lets bring back the Christmas Spirit…..
    Playing Christmas Carols, as I write, and preparing an old fashion trifle – first time ever – hope it does not flop.
    Anyone want to lick the spoon??


    • Christmases past always seem to be better than current times – the rosy glow of nostalgia has something to do with this view, I think! I cheated this year & bought a trifle from Woolies – it was beyond delicious, it was ambrosial …


  2. For me, and Henton, Christmas will never be the same again. Among the 22 Christmas Eve diners were our 3 children, their spouses, and our 6 grandchildren from 3 different continents. All have English as home language but accents varied from the slightly nasal S.African to the monatonic American twang, with the Australian carefree phrasing thrown in. Also,the children had to become familiar with different meanings of the same words. Discussions about beach activities brought up the apparel ……Americans wear swimsuits (costumes are for fancy dress), Australians have swimmers and ,of course, cossies are the norm for Souffafricans. Overall the universal spirit of Christmas prevailed.There was ham,turkey, roast vegies. Crackers were pulled, hats were worn. Mince pies graced the desert menu with the accompaniment of a unique bar-one ice cream. Mulderbosch wine tickled the palates of the adults and that oh so differently pronounced water filled most of the children’s glasses.


    • Sounds like a truly festive family occasion, and isn’t that what Christmas should be all about? I wonder if you too put on your bathing costume and splashed about in the briny with the kids?


  3. I wouldn’t mind so much sending Christmas cards, and paying the exorbitant postage, if the post office actually bothered delivering them…

    It is *wonderful* to receive real cards, I love it! Much to my surprise, we’ve received about 10 this year, and, amazingly, none of them had been surreptitiously opened in case something was concealed inside, as has happened in previous years. This year, unfortunately, my own card-making and card-sending activities were put on the backburner because of an insanely long to-do list… Next year I shall try again!


    • Well, you did send me an electronic greeting – so that was something! it sounds as if you make your own cards ? the postable variety, I mean. If I’m correct, why not take one afternoon a month and devote it to creativity of a different kind – card creation? I love doing craft projects – find them very relaxing. My craft is making messy collages – just love it!


      • That is an excellent idea, Alison. Yes, I used to make my own Christmas cards – cutting shapes out of colourful paper, or using grasses, seeds and leaves etc, or sticking on photographs, or drawing little pictures. I haven’t gotten around to that for a long time, sadly…


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