(An SA Blog Beta Post from Your Correspondent)
Greetings all and sundry from Your Correspondent, who, after 2 weeks off, is fresh, tanned and fit. Well, mostly fit, barring the odd whimper for mercy from his liver. (In Cape Town, where the winelands are near, and sin taxes are low, the citizenry is known to down the odd tipple or two dozen, come the holidays.)
So, what did you miss while I was gone? Plenty! Apart from the usual string of festivals, parties and markets, many other items, no less merry, conspired to make the Xmas period in the southernmost region of Africa truly unique, as ever. Here is SA Blog’s Top 5, starting with…
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The abdication of the 4th estate. Honey, someone shrunk the newspapers! To judge by the pathetic flimsiness of our daily and weekend rags – and by massive increases in music on the airwaves – no news actually occured in SA from 16 December to 2 January. Dedicated, hardworking editors and journalists threw their hands in the air and decided to regroup on the beach. In truth, the example they set helped everyone get into holiday mode, and they thus deserve our thanks. (It has not escaped Your Correspondent’s attention that his own blog followed their lead. Will try harder next year!)
The annual cancellation of the Minstrel Parade, followed by the annual Minstrel Parade. This is a relatively new tradition, piggybacking on the rather older Kaapse Karnival, which will celebrate 100 years next year.
The Karnival – also called the Kaapse Klopse, or the Coon Carnival/Parade (though the latter name fell officially out of favor a few years ago) – is a complicated affair which unfolds over three months, from January to March. It’s essentially a choral and marching competition between troupes of brightly-decked-out minstrels, mostly hailing from the Cape Flats. The competition kicks off each year on Tweede Nuwejaarsdag – the “2nd New Year’s Day,” 2 Jan – when all the troupes march through the streets of Cape Town with great, cacaphonous fanfare. In the past few years, the Karnival organisers have been engaged in a funding tussle with the Western Cape government, and have cancelled the Tweede Nuwejaar parade at the last minute – only to reach a compromise at the actual last minute, which this year was on 27 Dec. The minstrels are marching today, and if you haven’t seen it before, the parade is not something to miss. If you’re in Cape Town, go down to Adderly or Wale Streets, and watch the fun.
The Prince of Monaco in Fresnaye. Rumor has it that his grace spent New Year’s Eve in one of SA’s poshest suburbs, Fresnaye, on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard. For anyone who also happened to be in the vicinity that night – including Your Correspondent – it wasn’t hard to guess in which particular mansion the royal champagne was being downed. At the stroke of midnight, spotlights beamed up into the rarified Fresnaye air, setting a virtual stage for one of the most spectacular fireworks displays ever seen in Cape Town, launched from the grounds of the mansion. It was a real treat. Thanks, prince.
The Matric results, and the accompanying national soul search. SA kids in their final year of secondary school (i.e., high school seniors) write a series of national exams in December, which determine who gets to go to university, and who gets to return for another sitting. This rite of passage and all its agonies is known as “Matric” – which is short for matriculation. Matric results were released last week, and with them teenagers were unleashed across the land, to celebrate, commiserate, and generally exercise their right to breathe fresh air. 67% of those who wrote the exams passed them – not great, but not terrible either, given SA’s history of segregated education – prompting much debate about the rising generation’s prospects.
Santa Claus relocating to Gough Island. This actually didn’t happen, but the move looked on the cards for a while. It seems the North Pole is melting, and the elves have called for a proactive plan to ensure the future of Xmas and their jobs. According to a highly-placed source in one of our top estate agencies, Mr. Claus made a discreet visit to view SA’s farthest-flung property, which is pretty close to Antarctica, on 27 Dec, after recuperating from his gargantuan labors on the 25th. The source wouldn’t disclose the price of the island, but confirmed that Mr. Claus is a cash buyer. He’s apparently sleighing around to other southerly locations this week, and will make a decision on the new back-up Santaland soon.