We chat Afrikaans Christmas traditions with Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy

One of our favourite things about living in a rainbow nation is the different ways in which we all celebrate. Here at work, some of us bake Pfeffernüsse (pepper nuts, a spiced cookie) in honour of our German and Danish heritage and others celebrate with a juicy bird roasting on the Weber. We chatted to Callie Maritz and Mari-Louis Guy to tap into some Afrikaans ‘Kersfees‘ traditions. And yes, we chatted in Afrikaans.

Afrikaans Christmas traditions

Just in case you don’t ‘praat die taal’, we translated this conversation for you too. Scroll to the bottom to read it in English.

1. Op Kersoggend sal ek/ons….

Op Kersoggend staan ons reg met die kameras om die opvreetbare uitdrukkings op ons kinders se gesigte vas te lê, wanneer hulle sien hoe die kussingslope wat langs die kersboom hang deur die nag propvol geword het. Ons ma het altyd vir elk van ons `n versierde Kersfees kussingsloop gehang. Onder die boom was daar vir elke kind een groot persent wat ons op Oukersaand oopgemaak het. Dan,wanneer ons in die oggend wakker geword het, was daardie slope propvol gestop met kleiner persente. Hierdie persente was meer speels en persoonlik, en dikwels redelik laf, maar hulle was ons gunstelinge. Die slope kon omtrent enigiets bevat, van `n pakkie van jou gunsteling koekies af, tot `n leesboek, ‘n musiekplaat, en altyd `n blikkie kondensmelk vir Mari-Louis. Dit het ons ma ook die geleentheid gegee om dinge wat kinders dikwels vanselfsprekend sou aanvaar in `n pakkie toe te draai en as persent te gee. Hierdie was dinge soos sportskoene en -klere, of toe ons effe groter was, `n koevertjie met die geld waarmee ons in die nuwe jaar ons eie skool- en skryfbehoeftes sou moes koop. Ons laat die slopie tradisie voortleef met ons kinders.

2. Kersfees is nie kersfees nie sonder…

Kersfees is net nie Kersfees sonder familie nie. Beide ek en Mari-Louis het al vele Kersfeestes in die buiteland spandeer saam met goeie vriende, maar die hunkering om saam met familie te wees is altyd groot. Veral nou, met vyf klein kinders tussen ons twee, is dit vir ons belangrik dat ons, die kinders, oumas en oupas, omies, tannies, nefies en niggies bymekaar is. (Snaaks hoe ons ons wrewel in die alewige Afrikaanse verkleinwoorde moes oorkom ter wille van ons kinders.

3. ‘n Tradisionele Afrikaanse Kersfees bestaan uit…

Ons twyfel sterk of so iets bestaan en as daar ooit so iets was het dit reeds baie verander. Ons vind dat Afrikaanse mense nuwe giere en modes baie gou assimileer. Die enigste ding wat seker by almal dieselfde bly is die simpel papier hoedjies en klappers met flou grappies.

Die kos hang natuurlik ook baie af van geografie. Ons onthou daar was altyd vir ons Gautengse familie `n skaapboud, definitief aartappelslaai en vars seekos. By ons, wat heel jaar skaapboud op die spyskaart gehad het, was dit liewers eend of een van daai tamaai bruinvleis plaashoenders wat maklik agt mense kan voer.

Ons vind wel dat Afrikaner families tipies geleenthede soos Kersfees met oordaad vier. Daar is altyd twee of meer vleisdisse, en nooit, ooit net een nagereg nie. Afrikaners is plesierig, en dit het dalk iets met hul soettand te doen.

Geregte het deur die jare baie verander. Dieselfde skaapboud wat jou ouma bedien het, verskyn nou in ‘n meer gesonde gewaad op die tafel. Maar wanneer dit by poeding kom, is daar nie brieke vir Afrikaners nie.

4.’n Paar klassieke Afrikaanse Kersgeregte…?

As ons in Suid-Afrika is, is Kersdag gewoonlik mos maar `n erg warm dag, en dít beïnvloed natuurlik wat `n ou op die tafel sit. By ons is daar altyd kreefslaai, geroosterde eend, aartappels in eendvet gebraai, skaaptong met `n mosterdsous, vrugtekoek met `n goeie hoeveelheid brandewynbotter, en koekstruif.

5. Hierdie jaar kook ons…

Hierdie jaar kook beide ek en Mari-Louis twee etes. Kersaand vier ons saam met die skoonfamilie, en Kersdag is ons saam met ons eie uitgebreide familie. Kersaand sal dan bogenoemde disse soos die eend, aartappels en tong insluit.

Vir Kersdag doen ons `n lang tafel met hopeloos te veel geregte. Daar sal, soos altyd, met oordaad en oorgawe gekook word. Ons probleem is dat ons altyd nuwe disse bylas, maar nooit maklik ou gunstelinge laat gaan nie, dus is alles erg eklekties. Gelukkig vir ons is meeste van ons gunstelinge in ons eie kookboeke vervat. Daar sal wees, onder andere: lig gerookte snoek met perskeslaai, gebakte ham met esdoringstroop en `n “concorde” druiwesous, fattoushslaai (`n Lebanese gunsteling), `n feestelike vinkelslaai, murgpampoentjie carpaccio, `n artisjok doopsous (met tuisgemaakte mayo en baie gerasperde parmesaan), altyd iets met beet, wat hierdie keer `n Russiese aartappelslaai sal wees, bekers vol litchi sangria, en altyd yskoue waatlemoen.

Nagereg bestaan uit enige oorblywende vrugtekoek met brandewynbotter, Ouma se Lemoenkoek, `n koekstruif (met ons eie rooi fluweelkoek,tuisgemaakte vla en goeie ‘dessertwyn’ soos Ken Forrester of Vin De Constance). Mari-Louis wil ook `n Japanese kaaskoek probeer. Natuurlik dink die alewige stylis in my reeds aan 2015 se Pantone kleure, so die tafel sal in Marsala kleure gedek wees.

6. Ons spandeer hierdie jaar Kersfees

Hierdie jaar spandeer ons Kersfees by Mari-Louis in haar nuwe huis, wat sy eerste Kersfees gaan sien. Sy het `n fantastiese area onder `n moerbeiboom en `n verskriklike lang tafel wat so op die perskepitte staan. In die boom hang ons fotos van geliefdes, soos ons oumas en oupas wat nie meer by ons is nie,  wat `n groot rol in ons kinderjare se Kersfeeste gespeel het..

Dit sal ‘n heerlike, stadige maal met baie geregte, koue witwyn en kinders in die swembad wees.

Geseënde Kersfees julle!

Read it here in English…

1. On Christmas morning…

On Christmas morning we’ll be standing with cameras ready, preparing to get those moments. Our kids are at such a precious age, still full of wonder, so we want to capture their expressions of joy when they see the pillow cases which miraculously fill with presents during the night. Our mother started this tradition when we were young. She would hang decorated pillow cases next to the Christmas tree. Underneath the tree was the one main gift for each child and this would be given on Christmas Eve, then we would awake on Christmas Day to the pillow cases stuffed to the brim with smaller gifts. These gifts were more personal, playful and sometimes just plain silly, but they were our favourite. The pillow case could contain anything from a packet of our favourite biscuits, a new book, a vinyl LP and always a tin of condensed milk for Mari-Louis. It also gave our mother the opportunity to present those things that kids so easily take for granted as gifts, such as sports shoes and gear, cash to buy our own stationery for the year, and so on. Both Mari-Louis and I have continued this tradition.

2. Christmas isn’t Christmas without…

Christmas isn’t Christmas without family. Both of us have spent many a Christmas abroad with groups of good friends, but the yearning to be home with family was always there. Now, with five small kids between us, we find it even more important to surround ourselves with grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces on the big day.

3. A traditional Afrikaans Christmas involves…

A traditional Afrikaans Christmas involves… We highly doubt that there exists a common tradition concerning Christmas among Afrikaans people, seeing as we trace our ancestry to so many different countries. But we can speak for our own Afrikaans family. Geography within South Africa plays a role for us – our family from Gauteng would always have roast leg of lamb, potato salad and some form of fresh seafood. However, where we grew up, our daily diet consisted almost entirely of lamb, so for Christmas we were more likely to enjoy roast duck or one of those huge chickens that could easily feed eight.

One thing that our family’s Christmas tables have in common, though, is an excess of food. There will always be two to three different cuts of meat and never, ever just one dessert. Food has changed a fair bit in recent years, so even when we do traditional dishes, it is now presented in a more healthy way with healthier side dishes. But not when it comes to dessert. There, we have no brakes.

4. Some classic Afrikaans Christmas recipes…

Christmas Day in South Africa is invariably a sweltering, hot day, and this obviously affects what we put on the table. That said, among the many dishes we’ll serve, there will always be room for a crayfish salad, a roast duck and crispy potato wedges fried in duck fat, sheep’s tongue with a mustard sauce, Christmas fruit cake with a large dollop of brandy butter and a trifle.

5. This year, we’ll be cooking…

This year both Mari-Louis and myself will do two meals. Christmas Eve will be spent with the in-laws and then Christmas Day we’ll be together with our family. The evening meal will contain the aforementioned duck, potatoes and sheep’s tongue. For Christmas Day, we will do a long table with far too many dishes. Our problem is that we never want to leave out old favourites and constantly add new ones. Our very eclectic table will contain lightly smoked snoek with peach salad, a baked gammon with maple syrup and a concorde grape sauce, fattoush salad (a Lebanese classic), a festive fennel salad, marrow carpaccio salad, a hot artichoke dip (with homemade mayo and lots of grated parmesan), always something with beetroot, which this time will probably be a Russian potato salad. Then we also have jugs filled with a litchi sangria and always cold watermelon. Dessert will be any remaining fruit cake with brandy butter, our Gran’s orange cake and trifle made with Red Velvet cake, crème de patisserie and a good dessert wine such as Ken Forrester or Vin de Constance. Mari-Louis also wants to try a Japanese cheesecake. Always the stylist, she will be dressing the table and dishes in Marsala colours, the Pantone of 2015.

6. I’ll be spending Christmas… 

Mari-Louis has moved to a new house this year, so she is excited to have her first Christmas there. She has this fantastic area under a Mulberry tree with a long table placed on a bed of peach pips. Very Provençal… We’ll hang pictures of loved ones in the tree, like our grandparents who are no longer with us, but that were a big part of Christmases past. It’ll be a long, slow meal with lots of dishes, cold white wine and kids in the pool.

Mari-Louis Guy and Callie Maritz are a sibling food-styling team and the authors of Cakes to Celebrate Love and Life (Koeke ter viering van Liefde en Lewe), Cakebread Pudding & Pie, Make Give Sell (Markdag) and Cooking for Crowds (Onthaal op Groot Skaal). Mari-Louis Guy is also a judge on the upcoming new baking programme, Koekedoor, that will air on KykNet from March 2015.