Nothing to beat good old Christmas

Themba Molefe

Themba Molefe

They say Christmas comes but once a year and in the townships that can be taken literally: wallow in the festivities or be square.

Township dwellers in Tembisa, Soweto, Sebokeng, Ntuzuma, Mahwelereng and elsewhere live for the day.

The pattern is the same and is unerringly adhered to.

Preparations for the big day begin a week in advance, usually after most businesses have closed for the year and workers have taken their annual break from the daily grind.

The groundwork for the big do reaches a crescendo on Christmas Eve, when there is the last-minute flurry of shopping at the wholesalers' for groceries, more meat and lots of liquor.

The real festivity unofficially begins on Christmas Eve.

There are many people who regard the day as sacred or hallowed.

But for others it is time for merriment for the selected few: close relatives, friends and invited guests.

If a sheep is slaughtered by township householders, the reason is usually to have a braai and not necessarily to observe or perform any particular cultural ritual.

A great Christmas, it is widely believed, means plenty of meat, liquor, great company and generally having a good time listening to and dancing to good music.

It is when people wish each other "a happy Christmas and a prosperous new year".

But Christmas would not be Christmas for many without a church service - they would not miss the Christmas Day service, even after a year of not attending church.

For the younger people, Christmas celebrations are synonymous with revelling, music festivals, loud open-air parties known as street bashes, and the consumption of huge quantities of alcohol.

These bashes often attract teenagers and last up to a week, getting rowdier as the days wear on.