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Festive Season in South Africa

December 19th, 2023, by Jonathan Brannan

Escape the winter frost and dive into a sun-kissed Christmas in South Africa. Swap snowflakes for sunshine, festive traditions for summer vibes, and explore a celebration like no other beneath the African sky. Unveil a unique holiday journey, where winter coats are replaced with swimsuits, and the magic of Christmas comes alive in the warmth of the southern sun. Join us as we unwrap the secrets of celebrating Christmas and the holidays in the heart of South Africa.

The Festive Season in Summer

Step into a South African summer Christmas, where festive traditions dance to a sun-soaked beat. Bid adieu to winter norms and embrace the season in swimwear under the radiant sun. In this warm wonderland, outdoor barbecues, vibrant markets, and enchanting carolers come alive against the canvas of South Africa's beautiful summer weather. Revel in a uniquely South African holiday experience, where warmth and joy define the season.

Stretch of colourful beach huts on Muizenberg Beach
Stretch of colourful beach huts on Muizenberg Beach

Outdoor Festive Fun

Immerse yourself in the embrace of South Africa's summer, where the warm weather beckons outdoor adventures. Explore sun-drenched beaches, traverse breathtaking hiking trails, and discover the wonders of majestic mountains, lush forests, and wildlife-filled reserves. Our South Africa's Natural Wonders itinerary is crafted for those craving a blend of cityscape, coastal beauty, and encounters with both the Marine 5 and Big 5. From the vibrant streets of Cape Town to the pristine reserves of Shamwari and Grootbos, get ready for breathtaking views and exhilarating encounters with nature.


Festive Lights

Enter a luminous wonderland as Cape Town's city center illuminates with hundreds of festive lights. While the enchanting display graces the city every night during the holiday season, don't miss the grandeur of the official Festival of Lights. Witness the mayor's illumination ceremony and immerse yourself in a massive, free street party on Adderley Street. Explore stalls offering delectable treats, unique Christmas gifts, and whimsical decorations like dolphins pulling Santa’s sleigh. Let the luminous magic of the Festival of Lights become a highlight of a visit to South Africa during the holiday season.

Adderley Street Christmas Lights
Adderley Street Christmas Lights Credit:

Festive Events

Feel the festive spirit come alive as soon as December arrives in South Africa, and it really amps up in the build up to Christmas Eve. The country is infused with a magical atmosphere, with carol singing, candlelight services, and special events building up to Christmas Eve. Experience the enchantment of 'Carols by Candlelight' at the V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre or Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town. The Kirstenbosch carols, a cherished highlight of Cape Town's festive calendar, promise an unforgettable celebration amidst the beauty of nature.


Christmas Day in South Africa

On South African Christmas Day, families come together to exchange gifts and hang stockings for Santa, known as Sinterklaas or Kersvader in Afrikaans. The day unfolds with morning church services and festive meals, enjoyed outdoors in delightful weather. The traditional feast features roast turkey, duck, or beef with yellow rice, raisins, and vibrant vegetables, accompanied by delights like Christmas pudding and Malva Pudding. South Africans uniquely take their celebrations outside, firing up a braai (barbecue) with the tantalizing scent of sizzling meat. The tradition of pulling Christmas crackers, revealing paper crowns, adds a playful touch to this sun-soaked celebration.

Tweede Nuwe Jaar Cape Town
Tweede Nuwe Jaar. Credit: Cape Town Tourism

Tweede Nuwe Jaar

Experience the vibrant cultural celebration of Tweede Nuwe Jaar, also known as 'Second New Year,' in Cape Town. This event honors the city's diverse cultural heritage, blending African, European, and Asian influences. Parades, music, dancing, and a rich tapestry of food create an atmosphere of unity and celebration, bringing communities together to revel in their shared identity.

The roots of Tweede Nuwe Jaar trace back to the early 19th century when slaves in Cape Town were granted a day off on January 2nd to celebrate the new year. Today, the festivities have evolved into a dynamic expression of Cape Town's cultural diversity, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.


How to Say Merry Christmas & Happy New Year in South Africa

South Africa, known as the "rainbow nation," is a melting pot of diverse cultures and languages, boasting 11 official languages. Extend your warm wishes in the local languages with these festive greetings:

  • Afrikaans: 'Geseënde Kersfees' (Merry Christmas) & 'Gelukkige nuwejaar / Voorspoedige nuwejaar' (Happy New Year).

  • Zulu: 'UKhisimusi omuhle' (Merry Christmas) & 'uJabulela unyaka omusha' (Happy New Year).

  • Xhosa: 'Krismesi emnandi' (Merry Christmas) & 'Nyak'omtsha' (Happy New Year).

  • Sotho: 'Le be le keresemese e monate' (Merry Christmas) & 'Mahlohonolo a selemo se secha' (Happy New Year).

Learn these expressions, and you'll have the perfect linguistic palette to spread holiday cheer across the diverse communities of South Africa. Whether you're exploring the cultural richness of Cape Town or immersing yourself in the natural wonders, celebrate the season in a truly South African style!



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