Sibongile Mafu

When the festive spirit grabs you - hard

2012-12-05 11:00

The festive cheer is here. It invaded shopping malls around the country some time ago, but December has finally rolled around and the real work, or rather lack of work, can begin.

There is something about this time of year that seems to affect most of us, chemically. Our eyes get a little bit brighter knowing that rest and relaxation are around the corner, our hellos to colleagues and neighbours seem to be a little bit more enthusiastic and we can't wait to spend prolonged periods of time with family we've been avoiding the whole year. There's also that dangerous tendency to be overly generous too, and risk putting yourself on the back foot financially when the New Year rears her hung-over head.

The dark side

All the good wok you've done being frugal in the year starts unravelling, one tinsel at a time. Thoughts like: "Mom will like this" and "Dad would look great in this" invade your mind as you go about your menial tasks at the shopping mall, or browsing a news site, unlike this one, with the sole purpose of finding out what is happening in the world, to being  shown summer dresses and Christmas specials.

There is also the dark side of the festive spirit. The Mr Hyde of this season. That feeling that descends upon many South Africans like a dark cloud as they scramble to make sure they get the most out of the two or three weeks they have off. The sense of urgency to fit in as much of life in the short amount of time as possible, so regular scheduling can resume as normal in January. Something switches on (or off) in the brain when you realise you’ll be given the peak hours of your days back, just for a little while.

There's a determination in the eyes, an unbridled focus to make as many changes as possible.

The consistent banging begins bright and early every morning.  In the black neighbourhoods where I grew up, the festive season is the time to do your home renovations. You redo your kitchen, add a "television room" (essentially a second lounge that just houses a television) or add an extra garage. This year my mother called to tell me she was redoing the bathroom. Like clockwork. And she'll peer out her window every so often to see what the neighbour is doing. Home renovations during the festive season in black households are the equivalent of Christmas home decorations in white households.

Who will have the bigger and better taps versus who will have the bigger and better Christmas tree?

Sheer feeding frenzy

Competition is an intrinsic part of human nature as well as what keeps us going, even during the most wonderful time of the year. It shouldn't be what the holiday season is about, but for the most part it’s what I’ve known.

It's the time where we finally get to spend that money we’ve been grumpily and tirelessly saving the whole year so that we can get those things that we really want. I’m not one of those people who will harp on about holidays being commercialised but there’s something to be said for the competitive element that rises. Competition amongst neighbours, competition amongst family, competition amongst friends and the worst - competition amongst retailers.

I've been doing this December thing for close to 24 years now. Butterflies in the stomach are still there. The childhood excitement to get home and enjoy the hard work the parents have put into the family home is still there. But you can't help but look around at the sheer feeding frenzy of it all, bathed in red and green and shiny stuff. It never ceases to surprise me even though I know it's coming.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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