Peace and pride at celebrations
A small town in Free State came to a standstill when the Rasta community celebrated their Christmas on January 7.
This year the Universal Movement of Rastafari (UMR), the biggest Rastafari movement in Free State, took their festivities to the small, quiet town of Jacobs- dal, west of Bloemfontein, where they celebrated amid puffs of the "holy herb".
Ethiopia, having never been colonised, still uses the Julian calendar, which is seven years behind the Gregorian calendar used in the West.
The celebrations were graced by the mayor of Letsemeng local municipality, Sylvia Neels, and other dignitaries from Free State and other provinces.
Neels was ecstatic about the development of different religions in the area.
"We live in a democracy where everyone has a right to choose their religion of preference.
"Some people tend to judge Rasta people as not good, but they forget that there is no religion that is bad or not good enough for recognition," she said.
UMR spokesman Brendon Jansen said: "We have to stop confusing religion and spirituality. Spirituality is no theology and no ideology. It's simply a way of life. Spirituality is a net that joins us all together, to the most high.
"The celebrations went ahead as planned and the support by communities from different areas was enormous," he said.
"The UMR would like to thank the community pillars for their contribution to making the Rasta Christmas a successful event, and also the Jacobsdal police and community for their respect and acknowledgement," Jansen said.
The Rasta community is often associated with smoking dagga, which is illegal in South Africa, but Tumisho Phiri of Phahameng township in Bloemfontein said many people do not have a clue what their religion is all about.
"Yes, we know that smoking marijuana is against the laws of the country, but we just want people to sit down with us and try to understand our religion and respect our choices as much as we respect theirs," Phiri said.