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Christmas in a New Culture

As a US citizen living in South Africa, Christmas was very interesting as it didn’t feel much like Christmas. South Africa, or at least Port Elizabeth, doesn’t place much emphasis on Christmas day. The local crowd celebrates the “Holiday” with a vacation, family and food, but it is without the garland, wreaths, tinsel,and stockings.

Some homes will put up a small 1meter, 3 foot, Christmas tree, but they aren’t surrounded with many boxes of presents.

There are very few stores that decorate for Christmas and occasionally you will hear a Christmas Carol playing in a stores overhead speakers, or see fake snow smeared by little handprints on windows.

It has been reported to me the average person in Port Elizabeth makes $10/day. That $10 has to buy food for them and their family, provide a roof over their head, and electricity to cook the food, and clothing. It’s easy to see why poverty is so high and why there is a need for education and jobs.

Living here gives you a new perspective:

  • You realize what is excess and what is necessary. As when, on Monday, you find yourself wearing the same shirt that you wore last week on Monday. Then you drive to then grocery store to buy some milk and you pass a homeless man who’s life is in the bag he is carrying.
  • You see the value of relationships as their life expectancy is not long.
  • You understand God gives some things to you so He can give through you.
  • You encounter how spoiled you are compared to how others live.
  • You learn God holds you accountable for the needs you see.
  • You want to help everyone but the task is too much for one to champion, so you do for one what you wish you could do for all.

While Christmas was not the same being away from family, friends, and frantic shoppers singing fa la la la la la la la la…. I think that was enough “la’s”… I think this Christmas has shaped our family in a new way.