Slow, Green, African Christmas

Seasonal celebrations south of the equator, have a distinct flavour.

We embrace the sun soaked occasions – the cry of the hadeda, bright agapanthus blue and summer storms that celebrate the uniqueness of our continent. We gather friends and family around colourful tables with the smell of hot earth or freshly cut grass wafting through the windows.

There is no chance of a White Christmas in the Midlands, so how about a Green Christmas?Often relatives arrive from far away with surprises.  Exchanging gifts is a lovely idea, when we’re not mindlessly buying things for the sake of it. Be conscious of the impact this dizzy shopping has on our environment.   r-january-2015-agapanthus

Go local – support the guy down the road who is making tea trays or garden furniture, rather than the big stores.  Shop at craft markets for individually created items made with love. Everyone needs to get their hair cut or car tuned, give vouchers for services nearby and boost your community economy.

Lidgetton based Rondavel Soap, have created an African Christmas Spice soap beautifully packaged in a depiction of Malawian village life that captures the colours of the soil, the sky and the people in between. This handmade soap is fragranced by the spice markets of Zanzibar and Madagascar, Thatching Grass, Baobab and Mountain Sage – a combination reminiscent of baking gingerbread cookies or a new thatch roof on a warm summer day.  For the more traditional, there is Frankincense (sourced in Somalia) and Myrrh collected by Himba women in Namibia.


Illustration by Kate Chanthunya – Rondavel African Christmas Spice Soap

Need a bit more sparkle? Seek out the bespoke jewellery created by Penny Jardine in Curry’s Post – available at Blueberry Hill.  Table and tree decorations have been charmingly reinvented for our summer celebrations by community projects Zimele and Ooh Kamba. Quirky felt animals, strings of colour, plump Christmas trees and enchanting tin, grass or beaded angels made by skilled crafters in rural KZN. Seek out these treasures at House of Hearts Emporium at Dunrobin Nursery and Tatham Art Gallery Shop.  Explore the new showroom of Shuttleworth Weaving in Nottingham Road for individually crafted mohair scarves, rugs and blankets – pop into beautiful Cafe Bloom and The Lilac Crane just next door for more local loveliness.


Ban food miles – Make your festive meals a celebration of local, seasonal food, this is one of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact.  Buy drinks in returnable glass bottles.

Midlands farmer’s markets and small producers ensure you serve the best of summer abundance to your guests. For great ideas, grab a copy of Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni, that is crammed with Christmas fare – carrots spiced with cumin, pineapple juice (that soon turns to pineapple beer in the summer heat!), crunchy rainbow salads of radishes and new potatoes and elderflower cordial – all the tastes of summer.  The smell of just baked bread is everyone’s favourite – at The Upper Millstone in Hilton daily baking begins in the deep quiet just after midnight, Graham Taute’s sourdough always sells out at the Karkloof Farmer’s Market and the fragrance of wood-fired Love Bread is unbeatable.  Add Franco Esposito’s traditional charcuterie made from the free-range pigs that live on his farm in Kamberg (available at Rosetta Market), trout smoked by Sue Hofman of Wayfarer (available at Dargle Country Market) and award winning artisan cheeses from Swissland or Just Cheese to create an unbeatable feast. Locally produced beers and wine are available at Meander Fine Wines at Piggly Wiggly in Lions River.


To really accumulate green Christmas brownie points give a donation to a good cause instead of buying gifts. Some local options are:

Adopt-A-Dargle-Dassie – an initiative of the Dargle Conservancy to strengthen the food web by re-introducing rock hyrax to areas where they are no longer found.  A great gift for anyone who has happy memories of the Midlands, or would like to contribute to conservation.

Everyone likes to feel good. Funda nenja relies entirely on donations and volunteers to run their Friday afternoon dog training classes in Mpophomeni. Your feel good gift gives dogs the chance to feel special and kids the opportunity of saying “good dog”!


Visit the online B.U.G Shop where you can make a gift to the Midlands Meander Education Project in lieu of physical wrapped presents for family and friends.  Your donation will be used to toward creative environmental lessons in local rural schools.

While the world may seem overwhelming at times, making choices that support small local producers has a ripple effect – the more of us who do it, the more chance we have of changing the world one delicious meal and one gorgeous gift at a time.

Slow down a little, this summer.  You may have a watch, but do you have time? In Africa we do.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Great sentiments Nikki! I just made a small donation to Funda Nenja in Dizzy’s honour… 😉


    1. Yay! That is my favourite, favourite cause. Dizzy is the dog in the FN logo – so I know he will appreciate it. Thank you Lynda. x


  2. Christeen says:

    Nikki, I so loved this blog…. Just back from a green mountain Xmiss, shared with beautiful people, no glitz in sight, but beauty and tranquility beyond description!


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