How do young people in Mzansi celebrate Christmas?

From George to Joburg and Darling to Durban, the start of the Festive season in Mzansi is heralded by the placement of festive decorations (tinsel and baubles) in retailers and the familiar and comforting (or distressing!) sounds of Boney M and Mariah Carey songs playing on the radio.

However, with the arrival of Covid-19 on our shores last year, many of the traditions of Christmas, like gathering with extended family for celebratory meals, the switching on of Christmas lights in major city centres, unique Christmas night markets, and general revelry, did not take place. This year with a downgraded Level 1 in effect*, it seems that some people will be travelling to see and spend time with loved ones over this period, and it appears that some festivities will take place.

It’s also important to note that while it may be the most beautiful time of the year for some people to quote the well-known song, that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. For some people, it’s a sad and depressing time, a stark reminder of loss – of loved ones, jobs and opportunities. It can also feel incredibly overwhelming, and many people feel anxious about spending time with relatives and friends and feel pressured to spend money to purchase gifts.

We wanted to hear from young people about their Christmas traditions and practices and how they celebrated the festive season. See their responses below.

FunDza: How do you celebrate the festive season? If you don’t, why not, and what do you do instead?

“I usually visit my mother and my three little brothers. My brothers have this idea of me coming from town then I should have money to spoil them, so I should have money to spoil them during the season. I get to see them once a year so they want to cover the score, lol, that means lots and lots (of) sweets and chips. Well, there are family gatherings on certain days and on some days we just chill around the house or play some fun games as a family. For me, celebrating the festive season is all about spending time with my family.”
– Sindisiwe, intern, Ikamva Youth intern, Chesterville

“I celebrate the festive season with my family. On the 16th of December, we go to the beach to celebrate the start of the festive season. On Christmas Day, we spend it at home as a family exchanging gifts, and we have a prayer to mark the day.”
– Monalisa, Grade 11 learner

“During the festive season, I enjoy being around my family at home, spending quality time together. Close to the end of the year, I usually go out with the people that I worked with during the year just to celebrate and to congratulate each other.”
– Siphosethu, IkamvacYouth tutor

“I usually celebrate my festive season with friends and family, since the festive season is regarded as family and friends time. We go on outings for lunch, picnics and mostly mini-vacations.
– Khulisile, Ivory Park

“I’m going to celebrate the festive season with my family, we going to cook, bake & dance.”
– Lerato, Grade 9 learner

“Normally we have family gatherings around Christmas, and I love organising road trips with my friends, collectively picking a destination. I am always the organiser of these eventful outings and gatherings, starting from ways to find provisions for water to a mere pen to jot down the temperature for COVID-19 screening process, literally during Christmas, I still coordinate my coordination skills.”
– Galaletsang Maleme, 2021 Tutor and 2021 IkamvaYouth Intern

“I don’t celebrate the festive season because it’s so commercially overrated. This is the time people blow money and do crazy stuff that lands them in trouble. Maybe I am a bore fest, however Christmas was always a time that reminded me of my poverty as a kid. I may be past the destitution state as an adult, because I always had to work to bring financial stability on the table. During the festive season O rest/sleep because it won’t be long until I grind again.”
– Cecelia Motsemedi

“I don’t celebrate, because last year due to covid 19 I didn’t celebrate, I stay home. It was enjoyable. I was safe, meaning I am going to do same this year.”
– Tuna Mariza

“I want to celebrate my festive season with my family and my friends.”
– Trinity Phakula Phaks

“Festive season means connecting with your loved ones. So I always spend it with friends and family because I really enjoy spending time with them. That is the time where we create a lot of memories.”
– Letlhohogonolo Doleza

As you can see from the responses, young people and their families celebrate the festive season in many different ways. If this is a special season for you, have fun celebrating. And if this is a challenging time of year for you, look at some of our previous articles that cover depression and mental health to help you navigate the depression and anxiety and lean on friends, family or counsellors you can trust for support during this time.

Here are organisations that have professional counsellors that can help you:
• South African Depression and Anxiety Group: 0800 567 567 (toll-free counselling between 8am and 8pm)
• Lifeline: 0861 322 322 (24/7 National Counselling Line)
• Lifeline: 0800 150 150 (24/7 Gender Violence toll-free line)

Tell us: How do you celebrate the festive season?