Christmas Day in South Africa

When is Christmas Day in South Africa?

Christmas Day in South Africa is on December 25, 2022. It falls on Sunday.

How many days until Christmas Day in South Africa?

There are 213 Days left until Christmas Day in South Africa.

Is Christmas Day a public holiday in South Africa?

Christmas Day is one of the biggest annual holidays celebrated in South Africa occurring every 25th of December. Majority of the country’s population are Christians (mainly Protestants) and so, Christmas is truly a big celebration for the people. Christmas Day is observed to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom the Christians believe as their savior and the central figure of the religion.

Since the day is designated as a public holiday, most of the country’s establishments, businesses, and companies are closed. There are even some company offices which would close for several days, from December 19 – January 7, to give their employees a break for the holiday season. The government institutions, schools, and other learning centers are suspended as well. People are expected to spend Christmas together with their families, relatives, and friends.

Christmas Day Origin

Christmas Day has been celebrated every 25th of December annually for many centuries now. At present, Christmas is one of the most awaited and most festive seasons in the year. The celebration was observed not only by Christian countries but even to non-Christians as well. Although the exact date of Jesus’ nativity is a subject of debate, the celebration of Christmas Day to occur every 25th of December began in the 4th century, on December 25, 336. It has held in Rome under the regime of the Roman Emperor, Constantine. Later on, Christianity spread not just in the Roman empire but to the rest of the world as well.

Introduction of Christianity to South Africans

For the South Africans, Christianity first arrived in the country in the year 1652, when Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch navigator, came in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, along with several other Christian people. He was mainly tasked by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to set up a refreshment post to supply those Dutch ships traveling in between Netherlands and the Southeast and South Asia.

Years later, many Christian missionaries had started arriving in South Africa one after another. Christianity was then formally introduced to the South Africans by Georg Schmidt, a Christian missionary who came on July 1737. For the following years, several others keep on arriving, until such time, Christianity has become widely spread in the country. Currently, record shows that almost 80% of the country’s general population are Christians, with its majority following Protestantism (there are three types of Christianity: Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Orthodox Churches). By 1910, Christmas Day was officially instituted to become a public holiday in South Africa, which was then observed since then up until present.


Christmas Day Traditions in South Africa

Christmas is a celebration known worldwide. Each country observing the occasion has its own share of customs and traditions practiced along with the celebration. For the South Africans, their way of celebrating Christmas differs to that of the countries belonging to the Northern Hemisphere.

Enjoying Summer-Related Activities

South Africa, being a part of the Southern Hemisphere, celebrates Christmas during the summer season (the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere is opposite to those countries belonging to the Northern Hemisphere). Because of this, rather than celebrating Christmas indoors, South Africans celebrate the occasion with the beauty of nature and under the warm heat of the sun. Although it’s not a white Christmas (a Christmas with the presence of snow), it doesn’t make the country’s Christmas celebration less lively. In fact, one of the reasons why South African’s Christmas is unique is the fact that it is held during the summer season. Thus, going to the beach for Christmas is common in the country. People enjoy doing summer-water activities such as swimming, surfing, diving, and other water-related activities. Beach Grilling or more commonly known as ‘Braaing’ in the South African language, is popular during the celebration. In addition, other activities observe by the people on this day also include camping, going on a trip/vacation, and visiting families and friends.

Caroling

With the occurrence of Christmas Day, several festive activities are held throughout the country. House to house Christmas caroling is one of these activities. Carol singing is not only done by the children, but even adults would partake on this type of activities. The Christmas caroling builds up the Christmas cheer and the Christmas spirit. At midnight of the occasion, fireworks displays are also organized by some cities to add up more of the Christmas excitement.

Carols by Candlelight

At present, a recent practice is observed by the South Africans during the Christmas season. ‘Carols by Candlelight’ is what it’s called. Carols by Candlelight is a a musical event held in the towns and cities across the country. It is an activity wherein the attendees sing various Christmas carols along with choirs and orchestras, while holding lit candles. This event originally started in Melbourne, Australia on 1938. It gained popularity in the said country, and later, spread around the world. South Africans are one of those who adapted this practice to form part of the country’s celebration of Christmas. It has now become an important part of their Christmas celebration.

Christmas Charity Events

Another supported activity during Christmas in South Africa is the country’s Christmas charity. Several charity events are organized for the less fortunate individuals during the occasion. Among these charity events, the Santa Shoebox Project is the most popular. This specific charity event aims to collect gifts from individuals and private institutions, hence, the gifts acquired are then being distributed to the unfortunate children around South Africa. This activity is a perfect example of how the South Africans spread happiness and love during the Christmas season.

Christmas Decorations

Like many other countries, the South Africans also love to decorate for the Christmas holidays. Towns and cities across the country would set up sparkling Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and other decorations seen in the shops, streets, parks, and other public areas. It is impossible for one not to feel the Christmas air with all the dazzling Christmas decorations found anywhere. In December or even prior to that, the country’s markets, shops, and shopping centers are typically full of products to be used for Christmas decorations. Houses are adorned with Christmas lights, Christmas balls, garlands, candy canes, snow globes, and stockings. Some would even put out a fake snow as an additional decoration. Of course, Christmas trees are a common sight in every South African’s household as well. For the Christmas trees, although some of the people use real trees, there are many others who use the fake Christmas trees instead. These Christmas trees are expected to have gifts/presents set up under it, to be opened exactly on Christmas Day. The kids would usually help in decorating for the occasion.

Sinterklaas or Kersvader

The mythical figure called Santa Claus, is also popular among the South African kids. However, instead of saying Santa Claus, in South Africa, he is called Sinterklaas, which means St. Nicholas (patron saint of children) and Kersvader, which means Father Christmas. Before Christmas comes, the kids would often hang a stocking for Santa (Sinterklaas/Kersvader) as this is where they believed Santa would be putting their presents/gifts.

Christmas Greetings in South Africa

During the whole Christmas season, words like Geseende Kersfees are often uttered. ‘Geseende Kersfees’ is how the South Africans greet Merry Christmas in the Afrikaans language (Afrikaans is one of the spoken languages in South Africa).

Popular South African Christmas Foods

In terms of food, Christmas dishes are definitely not ordinary. In South Africa, a variety of food are always prepared for the occasion. The traditional ones are as follows: turkey, gammon, chicken, roast beef, duck, fish, vegetables, and yellow rice. Desserts like Christmas pudding, Malva pudding (a sweet pudding which originated in South Africa, containing apricot jam and has a spongy caramelized texture), cold salads, and fresh fruits are also served on the table. Some South Africans would even include Christmas crackers on their menu. After the meal, exchanging of gifts, singing, dancing, playing games, and other entertainments are observed among guests, families, and friends.

On Christmas morning, it has become a part of the South African’s tradition to go to a Christmas morning church service. Christmas feasts should follow later on in the afternoon. The country’s Christmas meals are traditionally done at lunch time of the 25th of December, although there are also others who prefer to have a Christmas dinner instead (Christmas Eve). Nevertheless, most of the South Africans typically have their Christmas meals during lunch time of Christmas Day itself, rather than on Christmas Eve. These meals are typically done outdoors like in the beaches, poolside, parks, people’s gardens, backyards, and other outdoor areas. The place doesn’t matter though, as long as you’re celebrating Christmas together with families and friends, then one can still have a wonderful Christmas memory.

Dates of Observance for Christmas Day
Year Date Day Holiday
2022 December 25 Sunday Christmas Day
2023 December 25 Monday Christmas Day
2024 December 25 Wednesday Christmas Day
2025 December 25 Thursday Christmas Day
2026 December 25 Friday Christmas Day
2027 December 25 Saturday Christmas Day
Upcoming South Africa Holidays
Holiday Date
Youth Day June 16, 2022
Father's Day June 19, 2022
Nelson Mandela Day July 18, 2022