Saturday, December 16, 2006

The ghost of Christmas past

Whilst compulsively scratching through old photos lately, I have found several pictures of past Christmases, so, since we still seem to be wandering around in memory lane, here they are:

One of the sad things about modern life in Africa is that families seem to be scattered all over the world, I don’t know if that is also true of other countries?

We know very few families who have all the generations still together in the same town. Our parents and siblings are scattered from Natal, Philipolis, East London, Knysna to Harare, and when you add our grown up kids, nieces and nephews into the mix, they are scattered in Scotland, Khartoum, London, Capetown, Pretoria, Clarens. Thankfully we have recently had one child moving back here, with her husband and son.
Because Christmas is traditionally a time to spend with family, we have always found it a bit tricky, juggling between family members spread all over the place, and as a result, very few Christmases were spent at home in the early years.
Lately I have grown less and less keen on travelling over the silly season, and a big treat for me is being here for Christmas.
So, to the photos… Up until 1976, they all took place in Harare, Zimbabwe. (It was then Salisbury. That is another thing that does not remain constant in Africa. Place names seem to change as often as Governments do. In fact our main International airport in Johannesburg has just had its 3rd name change in the last decade! If you want to come to South Africa now, you will be landing at O.R. Tambo airport. You can imagine how the printing companies love this, office stationery has to be reprinted on a regular basis, not to mention advertising leaflets, hotel brochures etc. However I digress…. ) (incidentally, the red christmas baubles on the 'o's are probably as close as I am going to get to any Christmas decorating this year, I was getting bored waiting for the photos to upload!)The earliest one I found was my sister, Jane and I being taken Chrismas shopping by mom and granny. I would guess it was around 1959. The shop was Store Brothers in (Salisbury) and take note, because when we get to African Images, Architecture, I have found an amazing old photo of the store when it was first built, you should see a bit of a change!
And what would Christmas have been without the annual school nativity play? I was the angel Gabriel, and by the end of the play my aching arm was sagging lower and lower as that jolly star seemed the get heavier and heavier!
Next is Jane and I, I guess I would have been about 11, so it would have been 1965 or thereabouts.
The next one was in 1973, my sister and Dave had just started dating, and I had just returned from my first year of University in Pietermaritzburg, in South Africa.
And here they are again, with my dad, in 1974
Christmas in Africa doesn't seem to be the same traditional extravaganza that it is in America, you seldom see houses decorated and lit up outside, and usually the main street or beachfront of a town will be the place to see the lights.This is how the Christmas lights looked in Harare in 1975.
In July 1976 Max and I got married, so from this point the “we” refers to our new little family. Karen was born in September 1977, and we immigrated to South Africa in November of that year, and spent the first Christmas with Max’s elder sister and her family. This is their 4 year old son Brandon looking longingly at the tree!
The kids would have been around 2 and 4 at this time, 1981, and we were living on a 5 acre smallholding on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. This is one of my favourite Christmas photos, we gave the kids some gardening tools, and they couldn’t WAIT to rush out to the veggie garden and try them out!
And this was the following year
Here is our son Ian, aged about 7, taking self service to extreme lengths!
A few years later we returned to Zimbabwe for Christmas with my sister and her family. We had many memorable Christmases with them, one special one was in the Eastern mountains of Zimbabwe, a couple of years later. I will do a separate post on that sometime next week, because I’d love to take you on a tour of the place.
In 2003, both kids were out of the country, and we spent Christmas in Knysna with Max’s family, shortly before his mom died. We were so glad to have had that chance to all get together.
In 2004, Karen, Jason and Ethan came to us for Ethan’s first Christmas, he enjoyed the paper as much as the presents. And could that lame little tree have been any smaller, but it was alive and is still thriving in the same pot in our garden.
In 2005, Karen, Jason and Ethan were trying to emigrate from Zimbabwe, and were having huge difficulties with getting all their documentation sorted out, so sadly they were unable to be with us, but we had a lovely surprise, because Ian and C came to visit from their corner of darkest Africa!

2006… this space!


Ali Honey said...

Thanks for your helpful advice....I'm trying it now. Enjoyed your photos and family history.

Janet said...

I loved taking a stroll through your memories. Photos are just the best thing....I love looking at everyone's photos of Christmas and seeing how each place has different customs but also how alike they are, too.

In the photo of Ian and Curstaidh I couldn't help noticing all the teapots on the shelf behind....I love the camel one! I have a few teapots but nothing like that!!

Anonymous said...

it has been fun putting these together! glad you enjoyed them. Ali, see new post, I took your advise to heart!
Janet, there is a story behind the camel teapot, will post it with photo some time this week!