Whilst luxury travel offers a range of new and awesome experiences to create the most exquisite memories, there are some creature-comforts that we still like to hold close at special times. Christmas traditions oft fall into this category!
If you’re visiting Namibia during November or December, you’ll very likely be pleased to observe that many German Weihnachten traditions are celebrated en masse! Feel that inner-peace permeate at the sight of traditional Christmas cookies and decorations for the festive season a la Germany style - displayed on specially dedicated shelves in most shops.
But… a German Christmas in an African country?'
Namibia is a former German colony (between 1884 and 1915), with a few thousand immigrants from the old 'Heimat'. While many of them were sent home (deported) after World War I and II, others stayed and raised their children on African soil, keeping up the old customs and traditions in the family, passing them on from generation to generation.
Christmas for a German-speaking family in Namibia is on the night of December 24 (Christmas Eve).
The build-up starts four Sundays before Christmas, when a special Advent wreath made from twigs with four thick, red candles decorates the lounge table. Each Advent Sunday one more candle is lit until all four candles are burning.
During the week, families usually light the candles on the wreath as well, making the atmosphere cosy.
On December 1, German speakers usually bring out an Advent calendar, often homemade, with a little sweet treat or toy hidden in each of the 24 bags, which can be reused the next year when it gets filled with sweets or chocolates again. Modern versions available in shops have a chocolate hidden behind paper doors for children to open every day until Christmas.
On December 6, St Nicholas and his servant Ruprecht arrive to check if children are well behaved. Children usually put out a shoe or a stocking on the windowsill or in front of their bedroom doors. St Nicholas and Ruprecht - the latter carrying a big bag - fill them with Christmas cookies and sweets overnight.
Often kindergartens and pre-primary schools arrange for a Nicholas fete, where children must recite special poems for the event and must say whether their behaviour has been good since the previous December 6. As a reward, they receive chocolates!
The Christmas tree and its decorations are equally important. Along the coast, German speakers go for a pine tree imported from South Africa. Inland a thorn bush is often used and decorated like a traditional Christmas tree with many wooden figurines and glass and metallic ornaments. These are often very old and precious, handed down for generations.
Due to the high temperatures in the Namibian summer, people inland and on farms seldom use candles, as they melt, and rather use electric 'candles'. The tree is usually put up in the sitting room a day or two before December 24 and that room is out of bounds for the children until then. This heightens the joy and mystery of Christmas.
Presents are usually put under the Christmas tree and are opened on Christmas Eve after the family has sung Christmas carols. Each family member receives his or her own 'Weihnachtsteller', a decorated plate with home-baked Christmas cookies, nuts and chocolates to nibble on during the festive days.
The whole family has a festive meal on Christmas Eve - often a roast duck.
If there are small children, everyone goes to the Christmas mass or church service early in the evening, followed by the giving of gifts and the meal. If the children are older, families mostly attend the late-night mass after the presents have been opened and dinner is over.