I mentioned the topsy-turvy seasonal confusion that had me humming Christmas carols last June. It’s back. I’m doing it again. Mentally I’m making lists of Christmas shopping. So with that, I’m dusting off some observations from last December.
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South Africans are seriously winding down for Christmas. Schools, government departments and contractors have all pretty much shut up shop for a month or more. I’m not clear what usual Christmas working hours are at the post offices, but as they’ve been on strike for about three months, have an enormous backlog, a serious cash flow crisis and are reportedly on the brink of total meltdown, I suspect there won’t be many Christmas cards arriving on time this year (at least that’s my excuse for not sending any and I am sticking to it).
The power cuts continue and are due to continue for the months (and probably years) ahead. As a result, the old Lagos Christmas cracker joke is doing the rounds here:
Q: What did we do before we had candles?
A: We had electricity.
While the power is out, the traffic lights stop working. Such traffic jams gave plenty of children the chance to read the prominent billboard, brainchild surely of the TV marketing Grinch of Christmas, that blared ‘Santa isn’t real. Cheer up with Comedy Central’. After numerous complaints, it was removed! You can read more about it here.
While all else seems to be grinding to a halt, the supermarkets are relentless, tills ringing energetically throughout December. Should you wake up on Christmas morning and realise to your horror that you have forgotten your stuffing or Cranberry Sauce, worry not, a supermarket near you will be open, even on the 25th.
What with the lure of the Duracell Bunny supermarkets, extra social activities and frenzied present buying, gifts for teachers and a Christmas bonus for any house help, December is already an expensive month. However, one must factor in a few additional outgoings.
Firstly, there are potential unplanned cash outflows resulting from the marked increase in nefarious activity during the festive season. You have to be vigilant to avoid being a ‘Christmas Time, Mistletoe and Crime’ statistic. Fear not though, the police will be out in force. However, their agenda has occasionally been reported to be, to milk any spare cash from you, the festive cash cow, before the criminals even get a look in.
The bin men are notoriously shameless when it comes to knocking on doors to ask for a little festive bonus or a round of soft drinks for the boys. Even if you give them something, chances are they won’t remember (i.e. they will pretend not to remember, but in fact will recall perfectly that you were amenable to some sort of donation previously) and will be knocking expectantly on your door again the following week and the one after. The best thing to do is be out when they come or hide in the kitchen when you hear the rubbish truck rumbling into your street. The bin men are on record as starting their Christmas scrounge as early as August! The parking guards, the petrol pump attendants and wait staff will also be particularly smiley hoping for a larger tip than usual.
Pickle seems to be on his own little charm offensive at the moment. His birthday falls during the Christmas break, so I took cake in to school before term-end. The birthday child gets a couple of DJ requests from their peers before the standard ‘Happy Birthday’ rendition and cake fest.
Teacher: What would you like your friends to sing for you Pickle?
Pickle: (Entirely serious) What to do with that big fat butt.
Teacher: (Almost completely straight faced) Perhaps you could choose a nursery rhyme that everybody knows instead.
Pickle: Okay, (shrugs) Baa Baa Black Sheep.
Me: (giggling silently in the corner) “Wiggle wiggle wiggle”
(Go on, click here and crank up the volume. You know you want to wiggle.)