I am writing this blog post as part of the linky for bloggers organized by the blog Expat in France. Feel free to check it out; you will find lots of useful advice about living in France, navigating the French red tape, and better understanding French culture.
In South Africa, this time of the year – December/January months, we enjoy our long-awaited summer break. The “festive season”, days are filled with many family get-togethers, days spent on the beach, children having fun in the sun, building sandcastles, braai-ing with family and friends (barbecue), eating trifle, and peppermint pudding, enjoying sweet watermelons, but more importantly, enjoying delicious food with good company and so much more! A time to really relax and unwind from the hectic year with children all on school vacation and the whole country basically in relaxed holiday mode. Family traditions include being out and about and spending much needed quality time with loved ones.
Coming to France in the summer of 2018, and experiencing our first winter here was magical, especially for us, a family hailing from the Mother City who never experienced such icy cold weather as well as snow at all. On the 16th of December 2018, we woke up to a winter wonderland, and I felt like a kid again! It was the first time we’ve ever experienced snowfall and it was something else. Experiencing a white winter in the summertime was something refreshingly different and we couldn’t get enough of it. So seeing snow for the first time, my children wanted to build their first snowman, lay in the snow, and chase each other with snowballs – they loved it!
In Cape Town, during the festive season, Adderley Street is decorated with festive Christmas lights. It is a family tradition to go through to Cape Town city centre to see the lights, walk around at the night markets, buy lots of food and stuff you don’t need haha and just enjoy the holiday vibes. They have an official ceremony for the “switching on the lights” where the Mayor switches the lights on at sunset. This event includes various musical entertainers and it takes place at the historic Grand Parade. It is like a BIG street party – a must to see and experience if you ever in Cape Town over the festive season! The other highlight for many Capetonians, every new year (Tweede Nuwe Jaar – 2nd January) is the Minstrels Carnival also known as the “Kaapse Klopse”. The carnival sees thousands of people in various minstrel troupes all performing their own songs dressed in extravagant uniforms, with amazing face paints and hats – all marching and singing through the streets in the city to the beat of their musical instruments.
Photo credit: Majidah Barnes
Visiting Strasbourg, city center to see their lights and decorations was spectacular and really on another level. It was like walking onto a movie set with the beautiful narrow cobblestones in Petite France, and all shops and big stores adorned with their Christmas decorations and lights as well as night markets selling handmade items, second-hand books, and so much more! It was different from the night markets in Cape Town but we enjoyed it. Place Kleber, the largest square centrally located in Strasbourg, housed a huge Christmas tree throughout the holiday season. They also had a huge ice rink where the whole family can enjoy themselves. We tried ice skating, but it was a big mistake haha – however, we still enjoyed ourselves!
Experiencing the holiday season in a foreign country, without family and friends around, is really tough as it can be very lonely. We enjoyed the experience of it all, but the only thing missing was our family and friends to experience it with us. We missed them; we missed our usual family traditions of get-togethers, having people around us to entertain, and the overall Cape Town, South African gees (spirit)! The holiday season is meant to be spent with family and loved ones and not alone. And even though we experienced a different winter, we will always be eternally grateful for it all. We missed home.
We missed Cape Town, missed having family and friends over, missed the beach, the warm summer days, and we longed to be home. The following year, 2019, we made sure we were in Cape Town for the festive season, and it was amazing! However, this year with Covid-19, we will be keeping it safe and spending it in Strasbourg, hoping and praying that this pandemic dissipates soon so that we can be reunited with our family back in South Africa.